Skip to main content

Farming Sector

Volume 622: debated on Thursday 9 March 2017

4. What discussions his Department has had with representatives of the farming sector on the implications for that sector of the UK leaving the EU. (909139)

5. What discussions his Department has had with representatives of the farming sector on the implications for that sector of the UK leaving the EU. (909141)

We are listening and speaking to as many farming organisations and institutions as possible as we develop our negotiating position. I have met a range of representatives of the agricultural sector, including all the UK farming unions, and have attended the stakeholder roundtables of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, one of which focused on farming and horticulture.

Louth and Horncastle boasts highly productive farms that produce excellent food. Will my right hon. Friend reassure our farmers that encouraging British food production and maintaining high-quality standards will be uppermost in his mind during the exit process?

The British farming industry is noted throughout the world for the quality of its produce. Outside the European Union, we have an unprecedented opportunity to redesign our policies to make them work for us and to ensure that our agriculture industry is competitive, productive and profitable, and also that our environment continues to improve.

Farmers in Eddisbury apply the highest standards of welfare to their livestock and the produce deriving from that livestock. What safeguards will be put in place to ensure that produce that does not meet those high standards does not affect the competitiveness of our farmers?

Again, my hon. Friend makes an important point because animal welfare and traceability are important elements of British agricultural production. We are committed to high animal welfare standards and will continue to push for those standards to be maintained in international trade arrangements.

British farmers face a triple threat from the vote to leave the European Union: the loss of the common agricultural policy subsidy; cheap imports from countries with lower animal welfare and traceability standards; and potential tariffs on exports to the single market. What is the Minister doing in particular to mitigate that third threat, as we could see tariffs of up to 40% on lamb?

The hon. Lady makes very important points, but this Government have already demonstrated their commitment to supporting the agriculture industry by supporting common agricultural policy pillar 1 until 2020 and giving support for pillar 2. On tariffs, as she will know, this Government aim to achieve the best possible free trade agreement with the continuing European Union and to ensure that whatever customs arrangements are put in place are frictionless and for the benefit of both Britain and the EU.

16. What discussions has the Minister had with the Government of the Republic of Ireland on the free movement of goods? That will be a particularly important issue for the agricultural sector after the UK exits the EU, because many farms in Northern Ireland straddle the border and much of the produce of those farms transits the border a number of times—for example, milk sometimes crosses it five times. (909152)

The hon. Gentleman raises an extremely important point that is at the forefront of the Government’s mind—in fact, the Prime Minister has discussed this very issue with the Taoiseach. Indeed, all the Ministers in the DEXEU team have had similar discussions, and I have had very recent discussions with representatives of the Irish Government too.