Defra sign© Kevin Foy/Rex Shutterstock

The government has commissioned no research in the past six months to inform agricultural policy once the UK leaves the European Union, it has emerged.

Defra minister George Eustice confirmed the lack of research in a parliamentary written answer to a question tabled by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.

Ms Lucas had asked what research the government had commissioned in the past six months to inform the development of post-Brexit agricultural and environmental policy.

See also: Agri-environment payments limited after Brexit

Mr Eustice replied by saying Defra invested a significant amount in agricultural and environmental research to underpin policy development and implementation.

“Much of this is relevant to the development of future policy in the context of EU exit,” he said.

“However, research specifically to inform agricultural and environmental policy once the UK leaves the EU – which is distinct from the department’s ongoing research programmes – has not been commissioned in the past six months.”

The exchange comes in a week during which peers warned that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will have a significant impact on the environment.

Key environmental policies at EU level include environmental aspects of the CAP, said the House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee.

The committee has been investigating the actions needed to ensure environmental protections are not eroded as a result of Brexit.

These include cross compliance, environmental standards and biodiversity, said a committee report published on Tuesday (14 February).

“Regardless of the shape of the future EU-UK relationship, the UK will need to replace all environment legislation that is currently embodied in EU fisheries and agriculture policy,” it said.

Long-term approach

Although equivalent policies could be carried over as a temporary measure, alongside other EU environmental legislation, the report recommends a different approach longer term.

The committee said the government should set out its plans to implement new domestic policies that build on the progress in environmental protection achieved during EU membership.

It should do this in advance of the completion of withdrawal from the EU, said the report.

A Defra spokeswoman said the parliamentary question had outlined that Defra does invest in agricultural and environmental research to underpin the development of policy.

“Much of this is highly relevant to the development of future policy outside the EU,” the spokeswoman told Farmers Weekly.

“We are committed to creating a productive and sustainable food and farming industry and will shortly be consulting widely on the future of farming policy as we leave the EU.”