UK seeking further reform

The British government is holding out for further reform of the common agricultural policy as it attempts to broker a deal on a new EU budget at the ongoing summit in Brussels.

Despite fierce criticism of the proposal tabled by foreign secretary Jack Straw last week, a revised text sent to heads of state on Wednesday (14 December) made only minor adjustments.

There was a slight increase in the money for new member states, but no further cuts in the UK rebate.

The amount earmarked for direct payments to farmers was unchanged, though there was a slight increase in the cash for rural development, with sweeteners thrown in for Austria, Finland, Ireland, Portugal and Sweden.

Controversially, the UK is sticking with its plans to top up the rural development budget by allowing member states to apply voluntary modulation of up to 20%, with no match funding by government.

Country Land and Business Association economist Alan Buckwell has described this as “a huge backward step” which will lead to smaller SFP cheques to farmers.

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