NFU vice president Guy Smith has said he is ‘extremely concerned’ about the future of Defra’s budget after the Treasury asked the department to model cuts of 3 and 6 per cent for the year 2019-2020 – just as the UK leaves the EU.
The move is part of the Treasury’s Efficiency Review, which was announced today ahead of the Budget next week. NHS spending, core school budgets and overseas aid funding will be ringfenced.
Mr Smith said: “Of all the departments with an increased workload, Defra must have the greatest given the repatriation of powers from Brussels.
“The workload will increase exponentially as the department becomes the main place for policy delivery and obviously it has been on the front line for past cuts. It does not make sense for it to sustain any more.
“Our experience with the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) and BPS, and Natural England and Countryside Stewardship, shows these agencies are already stretched and struggling to deliver, so we would be extremely concerned about how they would cope.”
CLA president Ross Murray agreed. He said: “It is hard to underestimate the scale of the task Defra is faced with as a direct consequence of Brexit.
“In addition to vital ongoing functions, significant resource is required to transfer thousands of regulations into UK law and to design a whole new policy framework for agriculture and land use is a significant effort.
“We will be working closely with Defra to understand how the delivery of functions might be impacted by any reduction in budget.”
Defra Secretary Andrea Leadsom has previously admitted to Farmers Guardian Defra could need more resources after Brexit.