UK farmers could be lumbered with ‘botched’ EU regulations for years to come because Defra is failing to interact with European officials, according to a British MEP.
Julie Girling, who sits on the EU’s agriculture committee, claimed contact between Defra and the EU’s institutions had dropped off dramatically since the referendum.
A lack of British input into European rules on agriculture could have a huge impact on British farmers as Brussels is pressing for the UK to enforce all EU laws during any Brexit transition period.
New EU regulations could also make their way into British law through the EU Withdrawal Bill, which means they would have to be unpicked at a later date.
Ms Girling said: “The regular contact we had in the past has definitely diminished.
“On files such as biofuels and plant protection products, which are very important for UK agriculture, there has been a definite lack of activity. This is worrying given the possibility of a transition period.
“We do not know how long farmers will be bound by EU legislation for. It may effectively be forever if it forms part of a trade deal.
“In the absence of any agreement, I think the UK Government owes farmers the courtesy of remaining engaged and active.”
Concerns have been raised about whether Defra has the capacity to deal with its Brexit workload and remain engaged with the EU at the same time.
NFU vice president Guy Smith said: “Our concern has always been Brexit would stretch Defra, especially as it recently faced significant cuts. It is really important our Government stays engaged.
“The NFU needs to make sure as we repatriate policy back to Whitehall, it is done in a thorough manner so we do not suddenly find ourselves with botched regulation or ill-designed policy which disadvantages UK agriculture.”
A Defra spokesman told Farmers Guardian the UK continues to engage with the EU at all levels on a range of issues, such as the re-approval of glyphosate’s licence.
“This includes continued participation by the UK in all EU meetings on agriculture, from the Council of Ministers down to the multitude of sectoral Commission-led committees and expert groups”, the spokesman added.