Farming budgets for the devolved nations are unlikely to be cut after Brexit because of the unpopular Barnett Formula used by the UK to distribute cash, Defra Ministers have hinted.
Defra Secretary Michael Gove and Farming Minister George Eustice have both suggested money will be allocated to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland outside the Barnett Formula after 2022 – the point at which the Conservative manifesto commitment to maintain farm support at current levels ends.
The formula is used by the UK Government to funnel cash to the devolved regions according to population size, but farming groups in Scotland and Wales have made clear this would be unacceptable because it would mean both nations having their budgets slashed by almost half.
When this point was raised with Mr Eustice by the Welsh Affairs Committee this week, he said: “We have got a clear manifesto commitment which is we will spend the same amount of money UK-wide on agriculture as we do now until 2022.
“I am going to be very honest with you. Post-2022, there will be a new spending review period and at this point I am not able to say exactly what will happen because there will need to be a discussion with the Treasury.
“What I can say is the strong representations we are getting from the industry and the devolved administrations is their preference is for a dedicated, ringfenced agricultural fund rather than a Barnett-ised approach.
“We understand the preference of the industry and the devolved administrations.”
Mr Gove went even further when he was asked about the issue by Ceredigion MP Ben Lake at Defra Questions last week.
He said: “We want to make sure, as is the case at the moment, farmers in Wales – indeed, farmers under all the devolved administrations – receive more money than would be strictly the case under the Barnett Formula.
“It is appropriate they should continue to do so because of the unique nature of the landscapes they farm.”