YORKSHIRE’S RURAL communities were promised they will not face a financial ‘cliff-edge’ today as Britain moved closer towards the EU exit door.
Farming Minister George Eustice admitted the region’s upland farmers are financially vulnerable and will need support as they lose access to EU subsidies as a consequence of Brexit.
Mr Eustice promised a “transition” period between the Common Agricultural Policy and its British replacement but argued Brexit was an opportunity to draw up a subsidy system better suited to British farmers.
The commitment offers the farming community the same guarantee given to business leaders by Theresa May last year.
Mr Eustice was speaking in Skipton as the Bill giving the Prime Minister the power to begin Brexit talks became law.
Mrs May is expected to formally start the process by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty in the final week of March paving the way for complex talks on Britain’s future relationship with the EU, including on food and agriculture.
Brexit is set to trigger one of the biggest changes in British agriculture in the last 40 years.
Talking to farmers at Skipton Auction Mart today, Mr Eustice set out early ideas for how the Government could replace CAP payments after Brexit.
He said: “In the case of farm support there are sectors, particularly livestock sectors, particulary uplands - so many of you in this room - who are financially more vulnerable, particularly if you look at analysis over the last decade or so. We recognise that.”
He added: “I think the right thing is to start with what does a good system look like, then we can think about how long we need for the transition.
“The Prime Minister has been clear she doesn’t want cliff edges so yes there will be some sort of transitional period from to the other.”
As the talks with Brussels approach, Mrs May made clear she will not consider agreeing to Nicola Sturgeon’s demand for a fresh Scottish independence referendum until the Brexit process if finished.
The Prime Minister moved to pre-empt next week’s vote in the Scottish Parliament on an independence referendum by declaring “now is not the time” and that “all our energies” should be focused on securing a Brexit deal.
In a speech to the Conservatives’ Spring Forum event on Friday, she will underline the message, describing the Union as “more than just a constitutional artefact”.
Mrs May will say: “It is essential that we get the right deal, and that all of our efforts and energies as a country and focused on that outcome.
“We need to do so united, as one United Kingdom, all pulling together to get the best outcome.
“That is what we have always done when faced with challenges. We have pulled together as one and succeeded together.
“We are four nations, but at heart we are one people.”
Mrs May will pledge to “ fight to strengthen and sustain this precious, precious Union.”