The centre-right Policy Exchange think tank, founded in 2002 by a group including Michael Gove (its first chairman) and Brexiteers Francis Maude and Nicholas Boles, has released a report on the future of UK farming outside the EU.
Farming Tomorrow sets out the “once-in-a- generation chance we have to reform Britain’s environmental policy and approach to farming after Brexit”
The report claims that the CAP has, “at great expense reduced agricultural productivity by lessening competition and supporting inefficient farmers, and increased costs for consumers”. Instead, it says an independent UK can abolish tariffs on food products to help unlock new trade deals; while helping developing countries and delivering cheaper food for consumers. At the same time, public support can be diverted to “reward farmers who deliver public goods like biodiversity and flood prevention, rather than rewarding wealthy landowners”.
Among the report’s recommendations are a call for UK outside the EU Customs Union to: unilaterally phase out tariffs “that increase consumer food prices and complicate new trade deals”; phase out farm production subsidies and income support by 2025, with remaining subsidies redirected towards protection for natural and public goods and increased investment in R&D to boost innovation and the sector’s long-term productivity, as well as rural infrastructure and connectivity; giving the Food Standards Agency new powers to collate, commission, and review scientific evidence on food safety and animal welfare.
Co-author Warwick Lightfoot, the Policy Exchange’s director of research, says: “The primary goal of government intervention in agriculture should be to support public goods and to preserve high standards for environmental protection, food safety, and animal welfare. But while we are in the EU, 87% of UK farming income comes from subsidies, a perverse and unsustainable state of affairs.
“Leaving the EU allows us to think again about agricultural policy from first principles. The starting point for policy reform must be the consumer. The EU’s historic reluctance to open up trade in food products has repeatedly stymied trade deals and led to higher prices for consumers and a distorted farming industry. The UK can now lead the world in cutting tariffs and being a champion of free trade in agriculture.”
The 70 page report can be downloaded via: https://policyexchange.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Farming_Tomorrow.pdf