Town & Country
T HE Great Repeal Bill White Paper published at the end of March puts the countryside in the spotlight, as about 25% of the EU legislation that has to be adapted to British law directly applies to Defra.
Secretary of State Andrea Leadsom reported in January that her department was unpicking one law a week and that she expected two-thirds to remain the same and the rest to be adapted. Some in the farming industry hope this is an opportunity to lose or clarify burdensome red tape and the NFU has mooted the idea of an Agriculture Bill; environmentalists fear protection will be watered down, despite the Government’s pledge that ‘the whole body’ of EU environmental law will ‘continue to have effect in UK law’. Farming Minister George Eustice has commented that Brexit should be used as an opportunity to increase farm-welfare legislation.
Phil Stocker of the National Sheep Association told a House of Lords Select Committee this month that his industry needs a ‘more carrots than sticks’ approach: ‘The UK is already renowned for its high levels of welfare and sound regulatory platform and we have long made the case that improvements to flock health and disease control will work to maintain this reputation more than any additional legislation could. The sheep industry needs help and encouragement, not further red tape.’
Reflecting the fact that nearly all exported UK sheep meat goes to EU countries (‘Shaggy sheep stories’, March 29), Mr Stocker adds that the Government needs to ‘protect our own shores from cheaper lamb coming in, produced to lower environmental and welfare standards’.
The RSPB is monitoring the debate closely, fearing the consequences of losing the European Court of Justice. The charity’s Stephen Hinchley told
Farming Today: ‘There will need to be an ongoing relationship between EU environmental legislation and UK standards [in return] for preferential access to that [EU] market.’
However, the RSPB’S Conservation Director Martin Harper blogs: ‘There remains a consensus that the vote to leave the EU was not a vote to lower environmental standards.’
CLA President Ross Murray adds: ‘Leaving the EU gives us the opportunity to rethink aspects of our regulations, but this should be done with great care. The immediate requirement is to ensure that all existing laws are effectively transferred to avoid chaos. After that, we can take a root-and-branch review of whether they’re appropriate or not.’