The PM’s Brexit divorce deal might be contentious, but it is clear the UK Government has listened carefully to what the farming industry asked for, says Paul Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives.
Last week, the UK Government presented its draft Withdrawal Agreement with the EU to the country.
It has been contentious, but I believe the deal takes an important step forward in delivering on the wishes of the British and Welsh people by taking back control of borders, our money, and our laws.
Importantly, the deal goes some way to establishing frictionless trade for agricultural goods.
Not only that, but the agreement also recognises the importance of geographical indicators, which means protected food names, such as Wales’ world famous PGI Welsh Lamb and Beef designations will, in the future, be provided with the same level of protection under UK law as they currently receive.
Therefore, following the Prime Minister’s announcement, it was really encouraging to see support for these steps from NFU Cymru.
To my mind, this demonstrates the effort that the UK Conservative Government has made to engage with stakeholders and take on board their concerns as we formalise our arrangements for leaving the European Union.
It is clear efforts have been made to protect the agricultural sector’s access to the EU market, where over 90 per cent of our exported lamb goes.
The alternative is World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs of nearly 50 per cent on such goods, which will do nothing to support the sustainability of Welsh farming for the future.
It is more important than ever that the Welsh farming industry is supported in the coming years.
Times and technologies are changing and the overarching challenges of the twenty-first century are being exemplified in the growth of automation, the squeeze on farmers’ profit margins from retail giants, and the dwindling interest in farming from younger generations.
Action must be taken by Governments today to protect the Welsh farming of tomorrow, so I was concerned to hear leading Welsh farming expert Dr Wyn Morris of Aberystwyth University say he is worried that the Welsh Labour Government’s Brexit and Our Land consultation paper for post-Brexit farming was ‘too vague’.
Dr Morris was absolutely right when he identified what needs to be done to ensure the longevity of agriculture in Wales: efficiency and entrepreneurship.
I want to see those who run farms empowered by Government, not restricted by it.
The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs says Welsh farmers need to work ‘better and smarter’ post-Brexit – well it is time Welsh Government Ministers started working better and smarter now by following the example of the UK Government and listening to stakeholders when developing agricultural policies.
The UK Government has taken us one step closer to leaving the European Union, and as powers are returned from Brussels, the voice of the agricultural community must be heard to ensure the competitiveness of the sector and protect it for future generations to come.
Paul can be found tweeting at @PaulDaviesPembs