Lack of planning could hit farmers after Brexit, warns Labour

A lack of planning added to Government spending cuts could affect the UK food and farming industry post-Brexit, Labour has suggested.

Rachael Maskell voiced concerns about the approach of ministers before last month’s referendum during her first Commons appearance as shadow environment secretary.

Environment minister George Eustice, a prominent Vote Leave campaigner, said “some early thinking and early planning work” is taking place across Government with Brexit decisions to be taken by the next prime minister.

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But Ms Maskell said: “I’m concerned that resilience hasn’t been planned for by the minister in advance of the EU referendum because trade and regulations of our food and farming industry is linked to the EU more than in any other sector.

“Yet this Government’s cuts to Defra (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) up to 2020 will total a 57% reduction to its budget.

“In the light of this, can the minister explain how his department will have the capacity to analyse the impact of the EU referendum, build resilience and be able to negotiate the way forward?”

Mr Eustice replied: “For the time being we remain in the European Union and all existing arrangements continue.

“It is only once we’ve concluded the negotiations and left the European Union that we would put future measures in place.

“And in terms of capacity in the civil service, there will be some areas and some EU dossiers that have a long-term horizon where we will perhaps be less engaged, less involved, and that will free up the capacity to do some of the planning work we have to do in our own domestic policy.”