A leading conservation charity has claimed Defra Secretary Michael Gove could be persuaded to give farmers more than the £3.2 billion they currently receive under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) after Brexit.
Dr Alastair Leake, director of policy at the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), made the remarks at a National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) conference in Durham last week.
He suggested in the initial months after the EU referendum, politicians were keen to take money away from farmers and hand it to the NHS because of the leave campaign call for £350 million a week to be spent on the health service.
But he pointed out other countries such as Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, which are outside the CAP, have chosen to spend more on farming than the EU.
“The first starting point for us in terms of policy ever since the referendum was to get into Defra and make the case we should continue to get some form of public support for farming,” said Dr Leake.
“How is this going? Mr Gove is giving us a big thumbs-up, and actually I think he could be persuaded to give more than £3.2 billion.
“Just think about that. It is some change in two years.”
Dr Leake went on to suggest thinking in the Treasury on the agriculture budget is also evolving.
“[The Chancellor] Mr Hammond is a bit more tricky,” he said.
“He is in the Treasury and wanted the money to go the NHS. However, even the Treasury have now said to us, ‘look, if you can demonstrate there is a real environmental benefit from this, and you can put some sort of price on it, then we will consider it’.
“I never believed we would find ourselves in that position two years ago. This is positive.”