Leaving the EU: Agriculture — [Mr Peter Bone in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 3:16 pm on 1st February 2018.

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Photo of Alister Jack Alister Jack Conservative, Dumfries and Galloway 3:16 pm, 1st February 2018

My source is the farming press. According to The Scottish Farmer a survey revealed that 66% of Scottish farmers said they had voted for Brexit.

Many farmers will be glad to see the back of the CAP and will be looking forward to what will replace it. I am encouraged by the UK Government’s commitment to deliver the same level of farm support money until at least 2024, which the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland mentioned. I am also encouraged by the plan to put in place a green Brexit that rewards good environmental stewardship. However, even more can be done.

The CAP has failed to keep up with the pace of change in agriculture, trade and the wider economy. We would be hard-pressed to find many farmers who would describe the CAP as modern, efficient, or even fit for purpose, and that assumes that they get their CAP payments on time, which I know, as a Scottish farmer, can sometimes be a bit of a luxury. We should build an agricultural policy framework fit for the 2020s and beyond that supports a healthy, profitable, diverse, innovative and sustainable sector in a global economy and that seeks to embrace the future and make the most of it, rather than shy away from the challenges it presents. But the issue goes far beyond farm support. As the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland said, it is vital that, for example, we maintain our high regulatory standards.

The EU is not a perfect regulator, and Brexit allows us to make changes to regulate better and smarter, and respond more proactively to changing circumstances. There is no case for compromising our standards, and we must make sure that standards in all parts of the United Kingdom are as high as or higher than they are at present. Animal welfare in particular is an area where we should seek to hold ourselves to even higher standards after Brexit. We must also maintain the commitment to high agricultural standards in our trade negotiations with third parties, and develop a framework that ensures that we can make such trade deals while preserving the devolution settlement. I expect that the powers over agricultural policy due to return from Brussels will in turn be devolved to Holyrood at implementation level.

The preservation of the UK internal market should underpin any future framework. If that were not to happen, it would be harder and more expensive for Scottish farmers to trade in the rest of the UK, and vice versa. We cannot allow that. That is a particular concern for farmers in my constituency. Dumfries and Galloway is near England and Northern Ireland, and trades extensively with both. We must not give our agricultural sector trouble at home when it should be seeking new opportunities around the world. We therefore need frameworks that ensure a degree of harmony between all parts of the United Kingdom, and that make sure our common resources are managed as effectively as possible.

Brexit is a challenge for Scotland’s agricultural sector, but it is also a great opportunity that can get the sector flourishing for decades to come. However, that will require the UK and Scottish Governments to work together to create an effective policy framework that can give a real boost to Scottish, and indeed British, agriculture.