Prime Minister David Cameron has stressed there can be no guarantees about the levels of support UK farmers will receive outside the EU in the future.
The decision will depend on the economic circumstances at the time, he told MPs.
Mr Cameron was asked in the Commons on Monday, following his statement on the implications of the shock Brexit result, what reassurance he could give campaign promises made to farmers about the continuation of subsidies and support would be delivered.
He said Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) farm support was guaranteed until the UK left the EU. But while he reiterated his desire to see support continue beyond that, he said it would not be his decision to make.
Mr Cameron told MPs: “I can say what I said during the campaign, which is that as far as I am concerned, I want a living, working countryside where we continue to support our farmers.
“That was guaranteed as part of the EU up to 2020. What is going to happen now is that those farm payments will continue up until we leave and, at the point at which we leave, a new Government will have to make a decision.
“Certainly, I will be pressing for continued support for agriculture because, as I say, our countryside is as it is because it is farmed, and long may that continue to be the case.”
Earlier in the debate when asked about post-Brexit commitments to regional funding, he said: “Obviously, it is at the point at which Britain leaves the European Union that a future Government will have to make the decision on how to match the money for Cornwall, the money for Wales and the money for farming.
“That is not a commitment I can give now. I very much hope that a future Government will be able to do that, but it will depend on the economic circumstances and the decision at the time.”
Mr Cameron also revealed a new EU unit was to be created in Whitehall to oversee the complex task of leaving the EU.
This will bring together officials and policy expertise from across the Cabinet Office, the Treasury, the Foreign Office and the Business Department.
Mr Cameron said: “Clearly this will be most complex and most important task that the British civil service has undertaken in decades, so the new unit will sit at the heart of government and be led and staffed by the best and brightest from across our civil service.
“It will report to the whole Cabinet on delivering the outcome of the referendum, advising on transitional issues and objectively exploring options for our future relationship with Europe and the rest of the world from outside the EU.”
The Prime Minister, who was meeting EU leaders in Brussels on Tuesday, said the negotiation, which will be led by his successor, to be elected by the autumn, would ‘require strong, determined, and committed leadership’.
“As I have said, I think the country requires a new Prime Minister and Cabinet to take it in this direction,” he told MPs.
Defra Secretary Liz Truss said there ‘clearly needs to be a system of agricultural support and British farming must remain profitable and competitive’.
She added: “Equally, Defra will continue to ensure the right policies are in place for a cleaner, healthier environment. The Government will work with industry and the public to develop these new arrangements.”
“Of course this will take time and it will be for the new PM to make decisions about future policy.”
Mrs Truss who was criticised at the start of this year after she revealed there was no ‘plan B’ in the event of Brexit, said Defra officials would be working with the new EU unit to formulate a Brexit policy for farmers.
She said: “As the Prime Minister has made clear, there will be no triggering of article 50 until his successor is in place.
“There will be no immediate changes - until we leave the EU current arrangements for farming and our environment remain in place.
“We are now preparing to negotiate our exit. Defra officials will be working with a dedicated unit in Government to look at a future package for farmers and the environment.
In an interview with Farmers Guardian on Friday, Farming Minister George Eustice reiterated the Leave campaign’s pledge to maintain CAP spending up to 2020 when the current scheme expires.
If the UK leaves the EU before 2020, it would fund the support from the UK exchequer, Mr Eustice said.
Launching his campaign to encourage farmers to vote to leave the EU in March, Mr Eustice said:
“Let us get one thing straight. The UK Government will continue to give farmers and the environment as much support – or perhaps even more – as they get now.
"The Prime Minister has made this clear and I agree with him.”
But following the vote he acknowledged the current Government could not make funding pledges beyond 2020 as there would be a General Election before then.
“But that doesn’t mean there won’t be anything beyond that,” he added
NFU President Meurig Raymond has written to EU Commissioner Phil Hogan today calling for reassurance that schemes currently available to UK farmers remain open and in place until 2020.
Mr Raymond and Mr Hogan spoke on Friday directly after the UK voted to leave membership of the European Union.
Today’s letter follows up on immediate issues of concern for NFU members including reassurance that promises made during the referendum campaign are delivered.
“We are in a period of extreme uncertainty,” said Mr Raymond, “but one thing remains absolutely clear; the role of the NFU in lobbying government to ensure that the policies developed in the coming weeks and months will focus on securing a profitable, productive and competitive farming industry.
“Speaking with Commissioner Hogan, I outlined the need to secure the best possible access to markets in the rest of Europe.
"Although we will not be a member of the EU, it will still be our major trading partner for the foreseeable future.
"During the referendum period these schemes were assured until 2020 allowing for farm businesses to plan ahead.
I have stressed the need for schemes, such as the Rural Development Scheme and the Basic Payment Scheme, to remain in place with the promised safeguards being made in the forthcoming period of negotiation.
“Leaving the EU gives us the opportunity to build a new British agricultural policy which is adapted to our needs - one that’s easy to understand and simple to administer.
We have a golden opportunity to ensure our arrangements in the future are proportionate and decisions are based on sound science.
"We will be looking for guarantees from government that the support given to our farmers is equal to that given to farmers in the EU, who will still be our principal competitors.”