U.K.’s Leadsom Pledges to Cut Agricultural Red Tape After Brexit

  • Environment secretary says bureacracy holding farmers back
  • U.K. may reduce inspections, cut paperwork after leaving EU

Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom pledged to cut restrictive red tape and loosen rules in the farming industry after the U.K. leaves the European Union.

Brexit will allow Britain to ditch environmental protection rules mandating the number of crops farmers should plant each year, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said in a statement on its website. Farmers will also no longer have to install billboards publicizing EU grants. Red tape and farm inspections lose the industry 300,000 work hours per year, it said.

“For too long, a bureaucratic system which tries to meet the needs of 28 countries has held farmers back,” Leadsom said in a speech at the Oxford Farming Conference on Wednesday, according to the statement. “By cutting the red tape that comes out of Brussels, we will free our farmers to grow more, sell more and export more great British food whilst upholding our high standards for plant and animal health and welfare.”

The government will consult later this year on areas where farmers would like to see reforms, Leadsom said. Her speech followed a warning earlier Wednesday from Parliament’s cross-party Environmental Audit Committee that the country’s 4 billion-pound ($4.9 billion) farming industry faces “triple jeopardy” after Brexit.

EU Subsidies

Farmers face losing EU subsidies, which make up 50 percent to 60 percent of their incomes, risk higher export costs and extra competition from larger economies outside the EU with lower standards on animal welfare, food safety and the environment, the panel said.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said she intends to invoke Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty by the end of March, the formal trigger for as long as two years of Brexit negotiations. She’s also pledged to pass a Great Repeal Act that will enshrine EU law into domestic legislation, enabling future British governments to amend it as they see fit.

The environment department said Brexit will also allow the U.K. to relax rules “requiring complicated definitions” for features in farmers’ fields that govern subsidy payments, “such as what makes a hedge a hedge or when a puddle becomes a pond.” Flood-hit farmers may be required to submit less paperwork to support claims for repairs and government inspections may be reduced, making greater use of aerial photography, it said.

— With assistance by Anna Hirtenstein

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