The farming community has warned the Government not to use British agriculture as a pawn in trade talks with other countries, insisting farmers should continue to have access to the single market once Brexit happens.
Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Andrea Leadsom, has sought to allay fears that British farmers could lose out when the Government secures Brexit trade deals for other industries, but has been warned by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) that agriculture must not be sacrificed for finance or other sectors.
A spokesman for the NFU said, that many farmers are concerned about the proposed deal with Australia, for example, which could see a big increase in lamb exports to the UK.
In reply, Mrs Leadsom said that Defra is passionate about agriculture and insisted that it would be “absolutely front and centre” of international trade negotiations as the UK leaves the EU.
She insisted that the Government does not want to “go around the world looking for cheaper food” and wants “great British food” to be one of the UK’s key exports.
Mrs Leadsom also said that she “banged the drum” for the importance of the food and farming sector in front of other government ministers at every Cabinet meeting, adding that there is absolutely no doubt in anybody’s minds how critical the sector is.
However, Mrs Leadsom’s comments followed earlier remarks by George Freeman MP, a senior policy adviser to Prime Minister Theresa May, which challenged the future level of farm support.
According to Mr Freeman, no sector would be more affected by Brexit than farming and he is reported as saying that if the British electorate looked at the money going to British agriculture, the likelihood of them saying ‘I would rather more of it went to the NHS’ is “quite high”.