On Monday, the rural economy and environment secretaries met the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs secretary of state, along with the Welsh cabinet secretary for rural affairs. During the meeting, the secretary of state was pressed on the issue of transition for the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy. The UK Government was not able to give any clear position at all.
Farmers and fishermen need to know what regime they will operate under in less than 18 months’ time. It is simply unacceptable that the UK Government has so far been unable to provide the clarity that has been requested and which is required. We will continue to press DEFRA and UK ministers on that critical issue in the coming weeks.
The First Minister knows that many of our fishers and farmers depend on access to UK markets to sell their products; they also depend on European Union subsidies to make our food more affordable and to protect the environment. What steps can she take to provide them with some comfort that that situation will continue post March 2019?
We will do everything that we can to ensure that the support that our farmers and fishermen depend on continues after the UK leaves the European Union. However, right now, it is the UK Government that requires to provide that clarity. We do not even know right now whether the UK’s membership of the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy will continue during any transitional period or whether the UK will exit them at the point of Brexit in March 2019.
Just to underline the confusion that reigns in the UK Government, I will read out two quotes, spoken a matter of days apart. Speaking to the National Farmers Union Scotland, Lord Duncan, from the Scotland Office, said:
“The Secretary of State has been very clear that he believes that farming and fishing should not be part of any transitional deal.”
Five days later, Michael Gove—the secretary of state who was referred to by Lord Duncan—said:
“Certainly a transition period of around two years will follow.”
I have some thoughts about what might happen to CAP during that period.
It is unconscionable that our farmers and fishermen, who, as the member said, rely on EU subsidies, still have no clarity whatsoever. I hope that everyone across the chamber will join us in putting pressure on the UK Government to resolve the situation and give the clarity that is so urgently needed.