Andrew RT Davies is Assembly Member for South Wales Central, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, prominent Brexit campaigner and partner in a beef, sheep and arable enterprise in the Vale of Glamorgan. Farmers Guardian caught up with him to talk about life after the EU.
As a farmer himself, Mr Davies has a good understanding of the needs of agriculture and wants to get the best possible Brexit deal for food and farming.
He strongly believes the UK is better off outside the European Union and feels the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was unwieldy, burdensome and bad for farmers because it promoted reliance upon subsidy.
“When you talk to most farmers what they want is a fair return for the goods they produce, and time and time again you were hitting that wall and not achieving that return from the marketplace”, he said.
“It cannot be good that businesses have 80-90 per cent of their turnover tied into a subsidy scheme rather than getting more money back from the market”.
He also pointed to problems on the horizon for farmers remaining in the EU, such as a diminishing CAP budget; the loss of UK contributions; a lack of opportunities for young entrants and a Europe which is increasingly preoccupied with non-agricultural projects.
“What I want to see is an economic relationship with Europe which recognises trade is two ways, we trade with Europe, they trade with us”, he said.
“I do not want to see fake barriers when it comes to trading goods and services, I want the negotiations to be as pragmatic as possible and allow us maximum access into the European market, but likewise I want to see the Europeans being able to come into our market because trade is good for both parties.
“There are also huge opportunities in the Middle East, Asia, and North America.”
A passionate advocate for food security, Mr Davies said he had no truck with the argument British agriculture benefitted from the might of French and German farming unions.
“I think it is a lazy attitude to say it is the French farmers that protect us or the German farmers, I just do not buy into that. The French farmers will look after the French farmers; the German farmers will look after the German farmers.
“You will always find people who want to put the industry down, that is why we can never, ever, fall back on just taking it for granted people understand the role we as farmers play in being such an important economic driver within the rural economy.”
On regulation, Mr Davies believes Brexit offers new opportunities to reduce red tape and said more could be done to harmonise domestic inspections.
“The point is only 5 per cent of UK businesses actually export to the EU, but 100 per cent of businesses have to meet European regulations”, he said.
Referring to devolution, having a UK-wide agricultural policy with deviations for the devolved regions is something he could support in a post-Brexit world.
“The very people who were saying power had to come to Cardiff or Edinburgh did not have any gripe about Europe controlling all this, but now there is an opportunity to have a UK agricultural policy, they say there is a demonic force in London that cannot be trusted”, he added.