The United Kingdom is currently negotiating its future relationship with the European Union. Some of the vital items still to be properly negotiated are fishing, tax rules, security and military connections, as well as judicial jurisdiction – to name a few! However, one major issue which is flying under the radar so far is our agricultural and farming industry – argues the Director of Get Britain Out, Jayne Adye.

Even though the United Kingdom left the EU on January 31st 2020, we are still aligned to some important European Union policies ? one of which is the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). This policy is the means through which individual Member States' farmers get paid in State subsidies and the regulations which govern how farms function and operate in producing agricultural goods.

The Withdrawal Agreement (WA) maintains the UK will remain subject to the CAP's rules until the end of the Transition Period – without receiving ANY CAP FUNDING. In addition to this, under the WA the UK sacrifices the right to make State payments above the former CAP levels (£3.5 billion) to our farms throughout the year 2020 – until the end of the Transition Period and until we have our own agriculture policy embedded in law. Clearly, this leaves us at a distinct disadvantage and one of many reasons why we must not extend the Transition Period.

The UK has legislated a temporary measure to maintain similar funding levels for this year under the Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Act 2020. This Bill maintains CAP regulation and matches the £3 billion of funding which farms should have received this year. The UK has been forced to create a legislative web of support for farms while we are tied to the Transition Period, due to the tactical pressure from the EU to try and make the UK less competitive in its agricultural sector. This was clearly an attempt by the EU to force our Government into accepting regulatory alignment to the CAP post-Brexit.

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The Government needs to pass the Agriculture Bill ? its own agricultural policy which enables the Government to independently fund and modify regulation for our farms, agricultural products and produce for the first time since 1973. This Bill will enable the Government to begin making domestic subsidies, but unfortunately – due to the ongoing Pandemic – the Bill has stalled at the 'Reading Stage' after passing through Parliament to this Stage on March 5th 2020. This Bill needs to come into effect as soon as possible – before the temporary funding legislation expires – or our farms will really suffer from a lack of investment. There has been some consideration on whether or not to allow funding – effectively bypassing EU regulations in the form of a COVID-19 'recovery or hardship fund' to help struggling dairy farmers during the Pandemic.

However, this recovery fund is not enough to really help our farmers and make sure they are competitive for the future. What would help is to break free from all regulatory alignment with the CAP – which bases the funding of subsidies on the actual size of farms, not by the type of produce or their productivity. This has made the value of actual farmland skyrocket, as landowners can demand more State money from the EU for the larger size of farmland. This has often led to rich non-farmers buying up farmland so they can benefit from EU subsidies themselves and then renting the land back to farmers. Often this leads to land not being used for a variety of farming, with many farms becoming increasingly inefficient (as the CAP is rigid and dictates what can and cannot be produced). Clearly, there needs to be an efficient response to market demands which does not lead to a surplus of certain agricultural produce and a shortage of others.

When we 'Take Back Control' of many issues in our future, hopefully this section of the economy will become more self-sufficient and we will rely less on expensive imports from the EU (and other countries) and we will be more able to support ourselves. Being subject to the EU's rules on importing, as well as the imposition of tariffs from outside the EU, means we cannot import cheaper meats and vegetables from abroad. This is currently a sticking point in the EU negotiations, as the UK imported £40 billion worth of agricultural goods last year from the EU ? something which the EU27 Member States would clearly like to keep doing.

Unleashing ourselves from the CAP is essential to get our agricultural sector working effectively post-Brexit. Farms will be for the farmers again as the Agriculture Bill funding is based on business activity ? not land-size payments. Farms will no longer only be for wealthy financiers buying farmland only for the value of the land and accompanying subsidies, without any idea about how the farms will be run. This should make our farms more efficient in bringing more British agricultural goods onto our plates at cheaper prices, as well as the ability to set our own food standards and decide where we import our food from.

The sooner we Get Britain Out of the Common Agricultural Policy – with NO regulatory alignment post-Transition Period – the United Kingdom can encourage some of our agricultural industry to trade internationally and reduce the extortionate trade deficit with the EU. This should leave us able to choose where we can buy cheaper goods from elsewhere, or enable production from inside our new Global Britain.

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