Leaving the EU: Policy Development

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th March 2018.

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Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Labour, Penistone and Stocksbridge 12:00 am, 8th March 2018

If he will develop agricultural policy and environmental standards for the period after the UK leaves the EU in parallel with trade negotiations with the EU.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Our approach to future environment policy was set out in our recently published 25-year environment plan; our approach to future agriculture policy was published in our consultation last week; and our approach to trade negotiations with the EU was outlined in a speech by the Prime Minister last week. All these policies are being developed at the same time.

Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Labour, Penistone and Stocksbridge

I thank the Minister for that answer, but does he agree that there should be a common framework for environmental standards across the whole United Kingdom after Brexit?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

As the hon. Lady will be aware, through the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, we are initially bringing across all existing EU legislation as it pertains to the environment. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has also outlined plans for a new environmental body, and we are in discussion with the devolved Administrations about their involvement and a UK framework in these matters.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Chair, Committee of Selection, Chair, Selection Committee

Park keeper or food producer— whatever the future for farming is going to be, does my hon. Friend agree that it must be possible to earn a living out of farming?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I very much agree with my hon. Friend, who has a lot of experience in these matters and an understanding of the industry. He is absolutely right. There will be parts of the country where some farmers choose to do more by way of delivering environmental outcomes, and in other parts they may focus more on food production. Either way, we want a vibrant, profitable farming industry across our country.

Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Shadow PC Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Intervention), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

In the Prime Minister’s speech last Friday, she said that there would be no compromise on environmental standards and animal welfare standards, which was welcome. What guarantees can the Minister give to Welsh and UK farm producers that they will not be disadvantaged by lower-standard food entering the UK market following post-Brexit trade deals?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Both my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have always been consistently clear that we will not lower our high animal welfare standards and high food standards in this country in pursuit of a trade deal.