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Defra Ministers accused of ‘refusing to engage’ with Welsh assembly on farming policy

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Welsh Assembly Member (AM) Mark Reckless has accused UK Ministers of ‘refusing to engage’ with the Rural Affairs Committee’s Brexit inquiry after Farming Minister George Eustice cancelled plans to give evidence at late notice.

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Defra Ministers 'refuse to engage' with Welsh Assembly

Defra Secretary Andrea Leadsom was also said to have rejected an invitation to appear before AMs.

 

Mr Reckless, who chairs the committee, wrote a strongly-worded letter to Mr Eustice which said the apparent refusal of UK Ministers to engage was a ‘matter of grave concern’ and brought into doubt the Government’s commitment to a ‘spirit of co-operation and respect’.

 

He told Farmers Guardian: “There is some concern as to whether more lies behind this than a diary issue. There are very different messages coming out of the UK Government.

 

“Some, including George [Eustice] have good grasp of devolution matters, but others like [Brexit Secretary] David Davis maybe do not, and we are concerned there should not be a land grab of agricultural powers.

 

“We would like to press George on some of those issues and explore more about what sort of UK framework he would propose, which is something we would need to agree, and what kind of financing arrangement he is looking at.”

 

Mr Reckless also said he would be prepared to look at some kind of bilateral deal with England on a common agricultural framework if the UK Government’s proposals were rejected by Northern Ireland or Scotland, but claimed there would be some areas of animal health, such as TB, where Wales would want to reserve flexibility.

 

A Defra spokesman said: “Although it has not been possible for the Minister to give evidence to the Committee on this occasion, we are in regular dialogue with the industry in Wales and Welsh farmers and we will be working closely with them on future agriculture policy.”

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