Conservative Government would guarantee current farms support levels until 2022 and make the UK a ‘global champion for free trade’ post-Brexit, according to the party’s General Election manifesto, reports Alistair Driver.
The 85-page document is relatively short on specific food and farming pledges, with other notable measures including a new agri-environment system, compulsory CCTV in slaughterhouses and a free vote on hunting in Parliament.
The manifesto, launched by Theresa May in Halifax on Thursday morning, reinforces the Prime Minister’s stance on Brexit, including leaving the EU single market and customs union and instead seek a ‘deep and special partnership including a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement’.
It also reiterates the Conservative Party’s desire for the UK to be a ‘global champion for an open economy, free trade, and the free flow of investment, ideas and information’. Unlike the Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos, there does not appear to be any mention, however, of protecting UK livestock producers from cheaper lower, standard imports under future trade deals.
The manifesto highlights the Party’s desire to take control of immigration outside the EU and ‘establish an
immigration policy that allows us to reduce and control the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union, while still allowing us to attract the skilled workers our economy needs’. The lack of reference to the so-called ‘unskilled labour’ the pig sector relies will be a concern within the sector, however.
It confirms plans for a Great Repeal Bill converting EU law into UK law, ‘allowing businesses and individuals to go about life knowing that the rules have not changed overnight.’
On farming and the countryside specifically, the manifesto promises the Conservatives would ‘bring sustainable growth to the rural economy and boost our rural areas, so that people who live in the countryside have the same opportunities as those who live in our towns and cities’.
“We have huge ambitions for our farming industry: we are determined to grow more, sell more and export more great British food,” the manifresto adds.
“We want to provide stability to farmers as we leave the EU and set up new frameworks for supporting food production and stewardship of the countryside.”
Key pledges include committing the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of the parliament. Previously the Government had only committed the same funding levels until the end of the current Common Agricultural policy in 2020.
Other relevant policy pledges include:
- We will work with farmers, food producers and environmental experts across Britain and with the devolved administrations to devise a new agri-environment system, to be introduced in the following parliament.
- We will help Natural England to expand their provision of technical expertise to farmers to deliver environmental improvements on a landscape scale, from enriching soil fertility to planting hedgerows and building dry stone walls.
- We shall produce a comprehensive 25 Year Environment Plan that will chart how we will improve our environment as we leave the European Union and take control of our environmental legislation again
- We will deliver on our commitment to improve natural flood management, such as improving the quality of water courses to protect against soil erosion and damage to vulnerable habitats and communities.
- We will continue to ensure that public forests and woodland are kept in trust for the nation, and provide stronger protections for our ancient woodland.
- We will make CCTV recording in slaughterhouses mandatory.
- As we leave the European Union, we can take early steps to control the export of live farm animals for slaughter.
- We will grant a free vote, on a government bill in government time, to give parliament the opportunity to decide the future of the Hunting Act.
- We will also take steps to enhance the provision of public services in rural areas.
- We will safeguard the post office network, to protect existing rural services and work with the Post Office to extend the availability of business and banking services to families and small businesses in rural areas. Our ambition is that all routine small business and consumer banking services should be available in rural post offices.
- We will support pharmacies and village schools in rural areas.
Among the policy areas not mentioned were bovine TB and the use of neonicotinoids in farming, both of which featured Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestoes.