Call for rural devolution deals to boost the economy

Ed Cox, director of IPPR North, believes devolution to rural areas is just as important as it is in urban areas in Britain's post-Brexit future.
Ed Cox, director of IPPR North, believes devolution to rural areas is just as important as it is in urban areas in Britain's post-Brexit future.
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European Union-style powers over farming and its funding for the industry should be retained and devolved to local decision-makers after Brexit so that future agricultural policy is better focused on unlocking rural economic growth, a leading think-tank claimed.

Too often, current rules and funding for agriculture fail to properly link in with local economies, according to a new report by IPPR North.

It says that because the make-up of rural economies is so varied - from seaside towns dependent on tourism to farming villages - a more devolved approach is the best way to achieve better value from Britain’s future agricultural policy.

The think-tank envisages new rural devolution deals being drawn up that would link a new national agricultural policy to local economic issues, such as communities, flooding and local labour markets.

Anna Round, senior research fellow at IPPR North, said: “There is no single rural economy. The economy in rural areas is by its nature hugely diverse and covers much more than the ‘tractor and tourism’ stereotype but also hotspots of high-tech businesses such as advanced manufacturing, agri-tech and digital innovation. This means a devolved, targeted approach is needed to really get the rural economy firing on all cylinders post-Brexit.”

Ms Round said this was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get a farming policy that really works for the UK, adding: “This will mean we must be as strategic as possible in how every penny is spent, prioritising environmental protections to prevent flooding, linking agriculture to scientific innovation, and boosting food production for both the UK and for exporting.”

Ed Cox, the think-tanks director, said: “The vote to leave the vote was a big vote against the status quo and to take back control.

“Devolution to people, councils and communities is essential as we leave the European Union in rural areas just as much as cities.”

Farming represents less than one per cent of the economy but 70 per cent of land is in agricultural use.