A top Welsh Government official has said the problems associated with developing post-Brexit policy for cross-border farms ‘keep him awake at night’.
Tim Render, director for environment and rural affairs in Cardiff, admitted there were ‘no clear answers’ for how divergence between Welsh and English farming policy should be managed for the hundreds of farms which straddle Offa’s Dyke.
Giving evidence to MPs scrutinising the Agriculture Bill in Westminster, Mr Render said: “The issue of cross-border farms keeps me awake at night, as I think about how to move to develop a new policy.
“We are working with the industry and Defra on what doing potentially quite different things in return for public support on either side of the border means for those 600-or-so farms which are potentially on either side.
“How we manage that is a tricky question. I do not have any answers to that.”
Dr Nick Fenwick, director of agricultural policy at the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW), was also giving evidence to the committee.
He pointed out cross-border farms had consistently been the last to receive payments of any kind over the past 15 years, placing them at a ‘significant disadvantage’.
Though he suggested the ability to change EU rules which prevent one payment authority from handing out cash without another may benefit these farmers, he did warn divergence would be an issue.
“The current EU framework has strict boundaries in terms of flexibility within legislation and flexibility within financial limits,” he said.
“We are looking, potentially, at a complete liberalisation of those boundaries, so they become far wider and the degree to which divergence can be market distorting becomes far greater.”
NFU Scotland director of policy Jonnie Hall told the committee industry needed to see the common frameworks being set out for the UK in order to protect the integrity of the domestic market.
“We need to ensure we are all playing to the same rulebook on a whole range of issues,” he said.
“We are unsighted on an awful lot of that. We are still trying to flush out of Governments – plural – the actions and discussions which are going on.”