Neil was proud to stand on a Conservative Manifesto that promised to give the British people an in/out referendum on our membership of the European Union.
The British people have had their say and the United Kingdom will now be leaving the EU. Neil strongly believes their decision must be respected. As Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee, Neil will now be fighting tooth and nail to get the best possible settlement for Britain’s agricultural and food & drink industries in the Brexit negotiations.
Neil has three main priorities in the Brexit negotiations. He will be working hard to hold the Government’s feet to the fire on each:
Maintaining Support Payments for Farmers
Direct payments from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy are worth around £3 billion per year to British farmers. They accounted for just over half of British farmers’ incomes in 2014. They are vital to the viability of many farms in Britain.
During the referendum, prominent Leave campaigners promised “'The UK government will continue to give farmers and the environment as much support - or perhaps even more- as they get now”.
Neil will hold the Government to account on this promise. He will work to ensure that farmers are not left out of pocket by Brexit and that a new post-Brexit agricultural payments system is designed to meet the specific needs of British farmers.
Securing Free Trade Access
The EU is a vital market for British agriculture and food & drink exports. EU member states account for 7/8 of the UK’s top agricultural export markets. In 2015, 93% of all British beef exports went to the EU – a trade worth £320 million.
Neil believes it’s crucial the UK retains a close relationship with the EU market. Any attempt by the EU or the UK to raise tariffs on agricultural goods would harm trade and push up prices – harming the livelihoods of British farmers. That’s why Neil is clear that securing as low tariffs as possible on British agricultural goods entering the EU must be a priority in the Brexit negotiations.
Within the EU, the UK had to abide by common environmental standards. These include:
· Minimum standards for water quality at beaches and bathing sites
· Legal obligations on air quality to reduce nitrogen oxide levels in urban areas to below 40 micrograms per cubic metre
· A requirement to reduce greenhouse by at least 20% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050.
· A minimum of 20% energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Neil believes these standards are vital to a healthy and sustainable environment. When Britain leaves the EU, Neil maintains the Government should keep the same rigorous environmental standards – and even seek to enhance them. In December 2016, Neil signed the Greener UK pledge, calling on the Government to establish the UK as a world leader on the environment after Brexit.