The government has no Plan B to support British agriculture in the event that the UK leaves the EU following a promised referendum.
Defra secretary Liz Truss said it was “not the case” that officials within her department were working up a contingency plan that would form the basis of UK agricultural policy should the referendum result in Britain quitting the EU.
She said: “We’ve got teams in Defra working on animal and plant health, flood protection, environmental improvement and making sure we increase our exports and support farmers – we don’t have any team working on that.”
Ms Truss’s comments come less than a week after NFU president Meurig Raymond said the referendum – due to take place before the end of 2017 – could completely change the way agriculture works.
Mr Raymond told Farmers Weekly: “As the debate around the EU referendum progresses, it is important that contingency plans are drawn up by Defra and the Treasury – they need to explain how farmers will be supported in the event of an exit.”
Shadow Defra secretary Kerry McCarthy said she was concerned the campaign for the UK to stay in Europe was “very much talking about jobs and investment” and not talking about farming, the environment or issues such as animal welfare.
Ms McCarthy said: “It is very narrowly focused – I think we need to look at the Defra side of it far more. I agree that there ought to be a team within the department looking at it.”
If people were to make an informed decision, then that work needed to be done, she added.