MY WEEK IN WESTMINSTER

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I met a group of Fylde’s farmers this week to discuss the implications of Brexit with them.

The National Farmers Union kindly arranged the meeting and I was more than pleased to be able to sit down and chat with them, allay some fears, and make them aware of potential new opportunities from the changing political landscape.

I was able to tell the farmers that they can expect business as usual until 2020, but that is when things will change. We are already net importers of food in the UK, relying on goods from Europe and much further afield.

Countries, especially those with historical ties to the UK such as those in the Commonwealth, will see Brexit as a great opportunity to get their goods into the UK, so we will be looking at trade deals to allow that, but which protect our farmers as well.

These countries will also want to learn from our farmers, who are the most efficient in the world. Farmers had several suggestions for the future, including the complete withdrawal of all government support, which could drive efficiency.

They also raised the prospect of returning to the situation before the EU, which saw guaranteed prices for goods, so they would effectively be ‘topped up’ by the Government when prices fell.

We also touched briefly on the works to improve drainage in South Fylde, protecting farmland and homes, which have now begun in earnest. It took a lot of campaigning to get the ditches drained and the message from farmers was simple – they would like to see the Environment Agency coming to help little and often, rather than waiting for problems to arise and tackling large problems.

That would, in turn, give farmers the opportunity to take preventative action themselves.

The past week has been one huge story about the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America.

I wish the new president well; he has taken on one of the most challenging positions in the world.

Why do I mention in it ? Because some of the decisions he takes will have long-standing effects on this constituency, in particular, the future of the F35 programme in an aerospace industry that employs thousands in Lancashire.

Continuing support for the F35 programme is a major part of the UK and American defence relationship, and something I hope the Prime Minister spoke to the president about when she met him.

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