At this crucial time, we need experienced voices in Parliament to hold Ministers to account and shape future farm policy, which is why I’ll stand again for Efra Committee chair if re-elected, says Neil Parish, Conservative candidate for Tiverton and Honiton.
Farmers Guardian is not supporting any political party in the December election.
During the course of the campaign, we will be carrying or have carried articles from Labour, Liberal Democrat, SNP, Green Party, Plaid Cymru and Brexit Party candidates or members.
Over three years since the referendum on Europe, we still haven’t left the EU.
And after years of parliamentary paralysis, this election will determine whether we leave or not.
Only a Conservative majority can deliver Brexit.
Boris led the Brexit campaign and has a deal agreed with the EU 27. All 635 Conservative parliamentary candidates have signed up to back it, including me.
It is ready to go.
For those who haven’t read it, the deal means we leave the EU by January 31 and enter a standstill transition.
The PM has also committed to no transition extension beyond December 2020, which means a new free trade deal with the EU by then.
We start from perfect harmonisation, and the PM has shown how to negotiate with the EU, so I have every confidence we can deliver under that timetable.
What all businesses need is certainty. We haven’t had that for a number of years now, so it is important we get Brexit done and put this issue to bed as soon as possible.
But there are some particular Brexit challenges for our farming community which must be addressed.
Leaving the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the single market and the customs union, means we must create a new trading relationship with our biggest trade partner.
That’s why a free trade deal with the EU is so important.
It is also why the Government must implement a variety of other agricultural measures to smooth the transition.
I am pleased, therefore, that our Conservative Manifesto includes a cast-iron guarantee that the current annual budget for farmers will be maintained in every year of the next Parliament.
That’s around £3 billion – the same as under the CAP.
We have also pledged to change public procurement rules so the public sector, including hospitals, schools and our armed forces ‘Buy British’ after Brexit.
This can increase the share of domestically-produced food we eat from 61 per cent, reduce environmental costs and support farmers.
Finally, leaving the EU will also end free movement. But in recent years, farms have struggled to recruit enough labour from the EU.
That’s why I have been calling for a Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme to be properly re-introduced.
Under our new manifesto, the annual quota for the pilot scheme will increase from 2,500 to 10,000, ensuring we have the labour we need.
If I am fortunate enough to be returned as the MP for Tiverton and Honiton in just a few days’ time, I will seek re-election as chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee to ensure Brexit works for our farmers, the Agriculture Bill is properly scrutinised and the Environment Bill is practical and realistic.
At this crucial time, we need experienced voices in Parliament to hold the Government’s feet to the fire, and shape our future agriculture policy.
Neil can be found tweeting @neil_parish