Farm leaders up in arms over devolved powers after Brexit

Scottish ministers have accused Defra secretary Andrea Leadsom of failing to come up with answers on important areas on the future of agricultural policy after Brexit.

Farm ministers from the UK’s devolved nations held talks in Edinburgh on Thursday (23 February) to discuss how agricultural policy might be shaped after the UK leaves the European Union.

Scottish rural affairs secretary Fergus Ewing told Defra secretary Andrea Leadsom it was crucial all areas of current EU powers within devolved administrations were passed to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

See also: Ewing accuses UK government of reneging on farm policy pledges

Mr Ewing said the clock was ticking and the UK government needed to offer clarity on how it sees Brexit influencing key areas, including farm support, access to labour and trade.

“European funding and powers are vital to our rural economy and we need urgent and binding guarantees from the UK government on what will happen after Brexit,” said Mr Ewing, speaking after the meeting.

“Following repeated requests, I have again pressed the secretary of state [Andrea Leadsom] for clarity that EU powers will pass straight to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“I have also asked the UK government to guarantee that Scotland will continue to receive funding at least at current levels provided from Europe.”

However, Mr Ewing said Mrs Leadsom failed to provide any satisfactory answers to questions on devolved powers, and future farm support.

‘Deflecting answers’

Scottish environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham accused Defra of deflecting answers on the long-term rights of EU nationals to live and work in the UK and on future access to EU workers.

However, Defra secretary Mrs Leadsom insisted the talks had been “constructive”.

A Defra spokeswoman said: “We are working with all devolved administrations as we make preparations to leave the EU.

“Today’s meeting was part of this ongoing dialogue. Work goes on to secure the very best deal that delivers for all parts of the UK.”

Defra is seeking to implement a UK-wide legislative framework on Brexit farm policy.

But farm ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland insist that agricultural policy must remain a devolved matter after Brexit.

At the NFU conference last week, Mrs Leadsom was criticised by NFU president Meurig Raymond for a lack of clarity on Brexit.

See more