Farming and the Environment after Brexit

Here in Lancashire and across Britain we benefit from some of the most beautiful countryside in the world, so I am delighted that Ministers are committed to safeguarding our vibrant natural environment. Until we leave the European Union, the existing arrangements remain in place. I am particularly pleased that the Treasury has confirmed that any structural fund projects, including agri-environment schemes, signed before our departure from the EU will be honoured for their lifetime even if they run beyond this point.

The Government has made repeatedly clear that all EU legislation, including environmental protections, will be converted into UK law at the point of the UK's departure from the EU. This will provide continuity and certainty for individuals in the UK and in the EU. Parliament has the power to amend or repeal any laws that it wishes and it will, of course, be able to modify retained EU law in the future.

Throughout the negotiations, Ministers will work with environmental organisations and the public to develop new policies. Leaving the EU means we can tailor them to the needs of our precious habitats and wildlife, instead of following a one size fits all approach for 28 different countries. Ministers are committed to seizing this opportunity as they work on an ambitious 25-year plan for the environment.

I am also pleased that the Government will continue to commit the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of this Parliament in 2022. Once we have left the European Union and have the freedom to move away from the Common Agricultural Policy, the proposal is for an ‘agricultural transition’ period in England, allowing farmers to prepare for a new system.

Food and farming is a bedrock of our economy and environment, generating £112 billion a year and helping shape some of our finest habitats and landscapes, including here in Fylde. Leaving the EU creates a once in a generation opportunity to design a domestic agricultural policy that will stand the test of time. Starting from first principles we can bring in innovative new ideas to support investment in healthy, sustainable British food production and do much better for farming, the environment and animal welfare. The Government proposes to move to a system of paying farmers public money for public goods: principally environmental enhancement.

Ministers have consulted widely with farmers and others, and have published the Agriculture Bill alongside their response; it focuses mostly on England because they recognise that devolution provides each administration with the powers to decide its own priorities. They are keenly aware of the importance of seasonal labour, so will work with the industry to ensure it has the right people with the right skills.

It is vital that we take this opportunity to use public money to reward environmentally-responsible land use, as well as maintaining and enhancing high standards of animal welfare. I am proud of the Government's record in creating and improving habitats; between 2010 and 2015, Ministers provided £7.5 million to establish 12 Nature Improvement Areas, created 150,000 acres of priority habitats and planted over 11 million trees; they are now committed to planting 11 million more. The National Pollinator Strategy will improve our understanding of the abundance, diversity and role of pollinators, and identify any additional actions needed to protect them.

Tackling air quality is another priority. Alongside national action and continued investment in cleaner technologies, in those cities with the most persistent air quality challenges, Ministers will legislate to implement Clean Air Zones. I welcome the recently-announced plans on this issue that aim to put the UK at the forefront of ULEV development, manufacture and use.

The UK will continue to play a leading role in combating climate change, as we did at the Paris Conference. Britain's share of electricity generated from renewables has doubled since 2009 while carbon emissions have fallen by 6 percent since 2010, and Ministers are determined to ensure we become a world leader in the new green economy.

Fifty Marine Conservation Zones have also been created to help protect our rich marine life, joining the UK's over 500 existing marine protected areas, and a further 41 have since been announced. A new UK Blue Belt of protected sites is now being created in British waters and around the UK's 14 Overseas Territories where there is local support and environmental need.

All in all I support, and share, the overriding goal to ensure that we are the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it.