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Farmers need certainty and clarity from Government right now - Abi Kay, Chief reporter

This week, Chief Reporter Abi Kay tells us what the Government must now do going forward with Brexit.



Is there any joined-up thinking at the heart of the UK Government? That is a question everyone must surely be asking after the revelations of the last few days.

 

What farmers need from Ministers more than anything right now is certainty and clarity. Instead, they are hearing nothing but mixed messages.

 

First up, we have Trade Secretary Liam Fox reigniting the row over chlorinated chicken. On Wednesday, he suggested it may actually be better for consumers because it lowers the risk of food poisoning.

 

Does he not remember Michael Gove having to step in to reassure farmers about the value of UK standards after the last furore? It was only in July.

 

Then we have Lord Duncan’s shock announcement the UK Government is planning to keep agricultural policy out of any Brexit transition period, giving farmers a new suite of rules from March 2019.

 

Given the Prime Minister pledged businesses would ‘only have to plan for one set of changes’ in her Florence speech, does that mean the Agriculture Bill due in spring will bring forward the revolution in farming policy Mr Gove has been promising?

 

Or are we supposed to have confidence in previous promises there will be an ‘interim period’ to adjust to new arrangements?

 

The mixed messaging does not stop there. In September, Theresa May promised the UK would pay the EU everything it would have owed as a member – £20 billion – up until 2020.

 

Does Lord Duncan’s announcement mean she will now be asking for a CAP rebate? If not, why not?

 

Then we have the confusion around the devolved regions. When the Agriculture Bill was revealed in the Queen’s Speech, there was a promise to ‘consult widely’ with Scotland and Wales on the new measures.

 

But now we find they were not even aware of the Government’s plans to move to a new system in March 2019.

 

There is no excuse for this schizophrenia. Ministers need to start thinking and working like a team if we are to reach those sunny post-Brexit uplands.

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