Farming Minister George Eustice has revealed Defra’s Brexit work is focusing on eight areas including trade, devolution and animal and plant health.
Ministers have mentioned eight ‘workstreams’ several times as evidence of the department’s preparedness for EU exit, but until now, no further detail had been supplied.
Calum Kerr, the SNP’s environment, food and rural affairs spokesman in Westminster, asked several written questions to flush out more information about Defra’s Brexit work.
He said the department needed to be far more transparent about its approach to EU exit.
In response, Mr Eustice said: “The current workstreams within Defra’s EU Exit Programme are: EU Negotiations; Trade; Devolution; Repeal Bill; Future Agriculture and Land Use; Fisheries; Environment, and Animal and Plant Health.
“As the EU Exit Programme progresses, the workstreams may change as they are dynamic and under regular review. The workstreams in our EU Exit Programme are carrying out detailed analysis of the implications and opportunities presented by EU Exit.”
Mr Kerr added: “These answers should have been in the public domain sooner. In my experience, Defra are not one of the more responsive of government departments. As we move closer to the challenge of navigating the perfect storm that Brexit represents for the rural economy, this has to change.”
The news came as Politico revealed 20,833 EU laws and rules would have to be scrutinised before the UK leaves the EU, meaning negotiators will have to agree on the divorce settlement at a rate of 40 legal measures per day.
3,012 of those rules covered agriculture - second only to external relations in number - and 2,175 related to the environment, consumers and health protection.
Defra told Farmers Guardian: “The Civil Service is well-equipped to deliver all of the Government’s priorities - including the UK’s exit from the EU. The Civil Service will continue to build the right skills, experience, and leadership to deal with the challenges, and take advantage of the opportunities, that lie ahead.”
The department’s EU Exit Programme has also begun identifying and filling vacancies.