Britain will leave the CAP when it leaves the EU in March 2019, but is planning on a five-year transition period starting in 2019.
Michael Gove, UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, announced plans to replace the EU’s farming payment scheme after Brexit during a speech at the Oxford Farming Conference. This plan includes a shift away from what he called the “unjust and inefficient” subsidies put in place by the European Union. Mr Gove promised that British farming standards will not be compromised after Brexit. Speaking ahead of the publication of the Government’s agriculture plans in the spring, he said farmers will receive payments for “public goods”, such as allowing access to the countryside, increasing biodiversity and planting meadows.
The move towards spending money on delivering public goods is part of a four-point plan, designed to “provide time for farmers to change their business model if necessary, help to make the investment necessary for any adjustments and prepare for the future,” he explained. British farmers receive around £3 billion (€3.37 billion) a year from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The Government has agreed to maintain current farming subsidies until 2022. Gove said the CAP was “fundamentally flawed”, adding: “Paying landowners for the amount of agricultural land they have is unjust, inefficient, and drives perverse outcomes.”
Leading commentators give this announcement a rather warm welcome, mostly calling it “encouraging” and calling for more detail. A good share of farmers is however likely to oppose the government’s new funding plans announced in Oxford yesterday. The Basic Payment Scheme, introduced in 2015, enables all farmers in the EU to apply for funding based on how much land they have, to help keep them in business. Fears that the new system might leave big landowners with fewer aids underpinned by fears that Brexit trade deals could threaten UK food security may indeed prompt a massive outcry from the farming community.
Liberal Democrat Defra spokesman Tim Farron blasted Mr Gove for making British farmers’ jobs even more difficult. “Farm payments compensate for the fact that the market is broken, because supermarkets and processors dominate the industry and exploit farmers”, he reacted on Twitter shortly after the speech.