FG’s chief reporter, Abi Kay, on why the time is right for Defra’s Brexit work to see the light of day.
Party conferences have traditionally been a platform for making exciting new policy announcements.
So you could be forgiven for expecting Defra Secretary Michael Gove to use his speech this week to give farmers a bit more of an insight into their post-Brexit future.
Sadly, what we heard was more of the same.
The speech could almost have been given in June last year.
Given leave’s victory in the referendum, it was curious to see Mr Gove rehashing the same old EU attack lines. We know what was wrong with the Common Agricultural Policy. Now we need to be introduced to its successor.
Farmers understand the shape of any future policy will depend on Britain’s new trading relationship with the EU, which is still up for negotiation.
But there are scenarios the Government can plan for. Defra should have an idea of what farming policy will look like if the Prime Minister gets her ‘ambitious’ trade deal.
And it is even more important Defra be prepared for an exit on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
Why can Ministers not share the broad sweep of their policy plans under both of those scenarios? Doing so would have several benefits.
Firstly, industry and the devolved regions would have plenty of time to flag up potential concerns, and Government would have plenty of time to deal with them.
This early consultation would also allow farmers to prepare for Brexit with a clearer understanding of the policy environment they are moving towards.
As well as being the sensible thing to do, publishing detailed plans for a WTO scenario would have the added political bonus of proving to the EU how serious our Ministers are when they say ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’.
It would show a willingness to walk away from the talks which could, ironically, reinvigorate them. After all, a good trade deal is in everyone’s best interests.
There has never been a better time to let Defra’s Brexit work see the light of day.