Scottish Office Minister Ian Duncan has shocked farmers and the devolved regions by suggesting the UK will have its own agricultural policy in March 2019, report Abi Kay and Ewan Pate.
Speaking at NFU Scotland’s conference in Birnam, he said the UK could ditch the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 17 months – meaning British farmers would not bound by CAP rules during the transition period proposed by the Prime Minister in her Florence speech.
Lord Duncan claimed the bombshell move was Defra Secretary Michael Gove’s ‘clear negotiating position’, and even suggested the Brexit talks could be made easier by taking CAP out of the equation, but the devolved regions appear to have been left completely in the dark.
He said: “We believe taking UK farming out of the CAP during transition is the right thing to do. As farmers you will be better off.
“Remember we have guaranteed Single Farm Payment and Less Favoured Area support until the end of this parliament in 2022.”
The surprise announcement completely astonished NFU Scotland and Scottish Brexit Minister Mike Russell.
Mr Russell said: “We cannot be both in and out. Ian Duncan has just contradicted the Prime Minister’s Florence speech.
“Taking fishing and agriculture out of the transition arrangements would be very difficult and add greatly to the confusion.
“It is impossible to know what the UK Government’s position is.”
The Welsh Government seemed equally stunned when approached by Farmers Guardian for comment.
A spokesman said: “We are surprised by Lord Duncan’s comments and are seeking to clarify whether this is now the position of the UK Government.
“We would expect them to respect agriculture is devolved and any UK position be agreed by all four nations.”
Despite the Government’s flagship Agriculture Bill being scheduled to come before parliament next spring, NFUS president Andrew McCornick questioned whether it was feasible to leave the EU and have a domestic policy in place by March 2019.
A UK Government spokesman said: “Leaving the EU means we will leave the CAP. As the Prime Minister set out in her Florence speech, we are proposing an implementation period to provide a bridge to our future relationship with the EU. The terms of the implementation period are a matter for negotiation.”