26 June 1998

Shadow Jack sees flop for farmers

A FLOP for farmers is how shadow farm minister Michael Jack describes the UKs presidency of the EU.

"Tony Blair said when he launched the presidency in December last year that reforming the Common Agricultural Policy would be one of the key aims of the presidency," Mr Jack said.

But that had not happened. In fact, the government had handed the process of leading the difficult negotiations on agricultural reform to the Austrians, who take over the presidency from July 1.

"The government has wasted this opportunity to ensure that the process of reform starts with the interests of British farmers to the fore," said Mr Jack.

"Under (farm minister) Jack Cunninghams leadership, the CAP negotiations ran aground and British farmers look set to get a raw deal when the reforms are finally agreed."

The reform proposals would see the introduction of caps on support payments which would favour smaller European farms at the expense of Britains more efficient units, Mr Jack said, adding: "The British presidency has been regarded as a long running joke across Europe. And for British farmers this is another fine mess Jack Cunningham has got them into."