14 May 1999

CAP reform survival fear

By Isabel Davies

CAP reform may return to the agenda sooner rather than later, according to farm minister Nick Brown.

The ink may be barely dry on the Berlin agreement, with the fine detail yet to be published, but it may not be too long before the whole reform process starts again, the minister indicated.

Speaking to a House of Commons agriculture select committee on Tuesday, Mr Brown said he doubted that the reform package, agreed by heads of state in March, was robust enough to survive until 2006.

"The intention is for the agreement to last for a six-year period, but the pressures will be intense. I think we will end up looking at this again," he said.

EU enlargement

Mr Brown told the cross-party committee of MPs that he feared that Europe would be forced to re-examine the Agenda 2000 agreement because of pressures from the World Trade Organisation, EU enlargement and the structure of the agreement itself.

The next round of WTO talks are due to begin at the end of this year and enlargement is on the European timetable to start in 2003.

But Mr Brown defended the agreement on the basis that some progress was better than none. "Our primary objective was to get reform and we have made a start," he said.

And he added that although the UK government was disappointed at both the extent of reform and delays in its implementation it was still "a pretty good deal in the short-term for producers". &#42