Come what May

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

DEFRA Sec­re­tary Michael Gove is­sued a call to arms for Theresa May’s Brexit plan when ad­dress­ing landown­ers at the CLA con­fer­ence in Lon­don last week. Mr Gove, whose depart­ment over­sees Bri­tain’s big­gest ex­port in­dus­try, said a no-deal Brexit ‘should be taken off the ta­ble’. He ap­peared in line with farm­ing lead­ers, who warn of ‘Ar­maged­don’ (Minette Bat­ters in­ter­view, Septem­ber 26): ‘No deal would be ex­tremely chal­leng­ing for the foodand-drink in­dus­try. The deal [Mrs May’s] is not per­fect, but it brings all sorts of ben­e­fits. If you agree with me, have a friendly word with your MP.’

The CLA has called for longer time frames on agri-en­vi­ron­ment schemes and Mr Gove re­it­er­ated that Brexit is a chance to im­prove an un­sat­is­fac­tory pay­ment sys­tem. He sug­gested the new ELMS (En­vi­ron­men­tal Land Man­age­ment schemes) should be treated like ‘a fourth crop’, say­ing: ‘It should be pay­ment by re­sults. If we see curlews re­turn, you should be re­warded for that rather than for tick­ing a box on a form.’

When asked how con­fi­dent he was about get­ting Trea­sury sup­port for ELMS, Mr Gove said: ‘We are the first gen­er­a­tion likely to die from life­style choice rather than con­tractable dis­ease and need to make an ar­gu­ment to the Trea­sury that we’re safe­guard­ing pub­lic health as well as im­prov­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.’

He said that, de­spite the ru­ral econ­omy form­ing 16% of GDP, ‘we need to do bet­ter’. His am­bi­tions in­clude more ‘ver­ti­cal farm­ing’—grow­ing crops, such as sal­ads, in­doors in lay­ers—and gene edit­ing. ‘I think we can over­come some of the reser­va­tions. It would al­low us to give Mother Na­ture a help­ing hand, re­duce chem­i­cal use and im­prove pro­duc­tiv­ity. This coun­try has been at the heart of pre­vi­ous in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tions and it can be again.’ KG

Our bea­cons of hope and em­blems of the blus­tery coast are cel­e­brated in a new book by Ni­cholas Leach and Tony Den­ton, Light­houses of Eng­land and Wales (£40, The His­tory Press), which in­cludes this pho­to­graph of the light­house on the Sk­er­ries, off An­gle­sey

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