Defra Secretary Michael Gove has denied Scottish plans to continue to give farmers direct payments until 2024 will disadvantage English farmers.
Mr Gove made the remarks in answer to a question from Farmers Guardian at an NFU reception in parliament on Monday (June 25).
Last week, after heavy pressure from industry and his political opponents, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing set out the post-Brexit direction of travel in Scotland.
Under his plans, any farmer who is entitled to payments under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will continue to receive cash for at least five years after Brexit day in 2019, though the idea of a payment cap is being consulted on.
Even with the cap set at the lowest suggested level of £25,000, only 27 per cent of Scottish businesses would be affected, and no further payment cut proposals have been put forward.
In England, Mr Gove is known to have been persuaded by farming groups to introduce reductions of less than 20 per cent to all farmers’ payments.
Cuts will begin in the first year of ‘agricultural transition’ and continue in later years until the payments are phased out altogether, though it is expected there will be an unspecified ‘floor’ below which support will not be reduced.
These plans, if implemented, could potentially leave some English farmers with less money in their pocket than their Scottish counterparts during the agricultural transition period.
Asked whether this would affect the integrity of the UK single market, Mr Gove said both Scotland and England would be cutting direct payments over the next few years, but in their own distinct ways.
“Ultimately, the key difference between Scotland and England is not that the next five or seven years will be dramatically different, it is that in England, we have spelled out a vision for what happens after that transition period”, he added.
“In Scotland, they have not yet. So the missing link, as it were, is what happens next for Scotland.
“But in the spirit of unity I would like to see across the United Kingdom, I have welcomed what Fergus has said so far, because I believe it is a pragmatic response to a shared challenge.”