Farming around Lewes ‘will come under huge economic pressure’ if the country leaves the single market, Lib Dems have warned.
The House of Commmons’ Environmental Audit Committee’s latest report warned that farmers faced ‘triple jeopardy’ from changes in the UK’s trading relationships negotiated after Brexit, including the potential loss of EU subsidies, barriers on exports, and increased competition from cheap imports.
But in a speech today Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom called Brexit a ‘once in a generation opportunity to look at new ideas and also at how other great farming nations operate’.
She told the Oxford Farming Conference that a bureaucratic system has ‘held farmers back’ and felt they had a chance to design a domestic successor to the Common Agricultural Policy that works for UK farmers rather than the entire EU.
Kelly-Marie Blundell, the Lib Dem’s prospective Parliamentary candidate for Lewes, said: “With significant agricultural and grazing land in East Sussex, farming in Lewes will come under huge economic pressure.
“We see 95 per cent of sheep exports going to the EU, which would be subject to a 30 per cent tariff if the Conservatives press on with pulling the UK out of the single market.
“The Conservative Government will not guarantee farming subsidies after 2020, which puts farming in a perilous position, without the added pressure of export tariffs to take into account.
“We did not vote on a referendum on the single market, and Theresa May and the Conservatives should heed the select committee report which clearly shows how badly our farming industry will be impacted.”
Labour’s Mary Creagh, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said: “UK farming faces significant risks – from a loss of subsidies and tariffs on farm exports to increased competition from countries with weaker food, animal welfare and environmental standards.
“The Government must not trade away these key protections as we leave the EU. It should also give clarity over any future farm subsidies.”
But in her speech Mrs Leadsom said: “I want to reassure you that I am committed to supporting British farming in the short and the long term – and I am confident that leaving the EU gives us an unprecedented opportunity to design a system that’s fit for the 21st century.”
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