Michael Gove tells farmers they will be protected when Britain formally leaves the EU if he wins the Tory leadership election.
The Justice Secretary said current payments from the Commons Agricultural Policy would be matched by the Government and there would be less red tape to deal with.
Speaking exclusively to the Yorkshire Post, he said: “I feel very privileged to have the support of Farming Minister George Eustice in my campaign and one thing George and I both said throughout the referendum is we would ensure that all of the money that currently goes to farmers stays with farmers.
“There would be no reduction in what people get from the CAP but what we do want to look at is the bureaucracy which leads to delays in payments. So we would want to keep the money and not the bureaucracy.”
Payments which farmers receive each year from the EU, and which make up a sizable portion of their income, would instead be made by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, he said.
However when challenged over concerns that a smaller economy post-Brexit would make current payments impossible to maintain, he said new market opportunities would boost the sector.
He said: “I’m convinced that there are new economic opportunities for us and opportunities for free trade deals with other countries, often countries which are perfect homes for our high quality products, whether that’s Japan, China or Canada.”
He wants Britain to seize trade deals now and not wait until Britain formally leaves the EU to access new markets.
“We also need to ensure that the high quality British food which is getting an increasingly powerful reputation across the world is maintained,” he said.
In an attempt to set himself apart from Tory Party front-runner Theresa May and other leadership candidates he said he best understands the needs of those living and working in the countryside.
During his time in Government he cofounded a Conservative network to promote British food and ensured more British food is used in schools and prisons.
He said his upbringing in Aberdeen in a family which ran a fishing business means he “knows how important it is to support and look after people who are in the business of getting food onto our plates”.
EU migrant Labour which powers much of the agricultural sector on the east coast of England would also be protected, he said, despite his overall intention as Tory party leader to reduce migration figures.
“If we are outside the EU we can dictate who comes here and we can, if we wish, keep a seasonal agricultural workers scheme,” he said. The six-month temporary work programme closed in 2013.
Without the automatic free movement of the EU, he said he could control who comes to the UK based solely on the country’s “economic need” or to provide a home for those where there is a “humanitarian case” to act.
The fight to become next leader of the Conservative Party will go down to the wire tomorrow as contenders frantically try and amass enough backing from MPs to challenge Theresa May.
The Home Secretary is the current favourite among members so far with estimates that 110 MPs publicly back her. This morning she swept up more two staunch Boris Johnson campaigners to her camp.
Michael Gove’s team are set to work through the night to maintain his slight lead above the other candidates as he attempts to make it to the final two on the ballot paper that eventually goes out to party members.
When asked how he was feeling ahead of Tuesday’s vote, he said: “The key thing was to make the argument and stand by your principles and say what you believe and accept the verdict whatever happens.”
He said he was feeling confident and encouraged by the support he was receiving, and he was pleased that those backing him were people he liked and admired.
“More and more people are supporting us and it’s great to have two bright young MPs in Yorkshire backing me, Rishi Sunak and Andrea Jenkyns.
“I’ve known Rishi since before he took over William Hague’s seat in Richmond and he is a fantastic guy and we are getting support from both Leave and Remain, new MPs and also some of the very experienced, older hands like John Whittingdale. Considering we only launched the campaign on Friday it’s encouraging,” he said.
On Monday it was estimated that Theresa May was on 110 nominations, Michael Gove on 31, energy minister Andrea Leadsom 30, work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb on 24 and Liam Fox on 12.
The Conservative Party use a voting mechanism called the ‘exhaustive ballot’ and the first round of begins today in which MPs vote for one of the five candidates. The person with the lowest vote is eliminated and subsequent voting for the four remaining candidates begins on Thursday.
Voting continues on Tuesdays and Thursdays until just two candidates remain.
Mrs May’s campaign was boosted by declarations of support from two former Boris Johnson backers, Braintree MP James Cleverly and former leadership contender David Davis, who represents Haltemprice and Howden.
Influential backbencher Mr Davis is a former party chairman and shadow home secretary and stood against David Cameron for the top job in 2005.
Mr Cleverly was visibly stunned on Thursday when Boris Johnson announced that he was not going to run in the Tory leadership contest at the St Ermin’s hotel in Central London, just an hour after Mr Gove said he would also be standing.
Despite campaigning to leave the EU, he said he would rather give his support to Remainer Theresa May and made much of “trust” in his briefing to the press.
He said: “I’ve not had the chance to speak to Michael Gove. It’s been a very busy morning and weekend.
“Of the two candidates who have been in cabinet over the last six years, I ask myself, ‘who do I trust more?”
“Who do I trust most to have the desire and ability to deliver Brexit? I trust Theresa May.”