14 May 1999
More reforms ahead, suggests Brown

By Isabel Davies

REFORM of the Common Agricultural Policy may return to the agenda sooner rather than later, according to agriculture minister Nick Brown.

The ink may be barely dry on the Berlin agreement 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 this week, Mr Brown said he doubted that the reform package 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.

Mr Brown told MPs that he feared that Europe would be forced to re-examine the Agenda 2000 agreement because of pressures from the World Trade Organisation.

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, achieved at a Berlin summit in March, 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 some aspects of reform it was still a pretty good deal in the short-term for producers.