Renegotiating a better deal for farmers will not mean another EU referendum, Labour pledges

Renegotiating a better deal with the EU for British farmers does not require Labour to look at rejoining the Bloc, Labour’s shadow environment secretary has said.

In an exclusive interview with The Yorkshire Post ahead of his speech in Liverpool later today, Steve Reed said that “nobody is talking about reopening the EU question”, following concerns over Sir Keir Starmer’s comments of a closer relationship between the UK and the European Union.

“That won’t be happening, whether you were Remain or Leave, no one wants to go back to that division, it was absolutely debilitating for this country,” he said.

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Mr Reed said the existing agreement with the EU is up for renewal in 2025, and that Labour wants to “make the deal work better for British farmers, growers and producers.”

Shadow environment secretary, Steve Reed.Shadow environment secretary, Steve Reed.
Shadow environment secretary, Steve Reed.

“They were promised one set of things and got something completely different,” he said, adding that the guaranteed continued open access to European export markets has not been the case following the exit from the EU.

He said that a “mountain of red tape” now means it is essentially impossible to continue exporting to Europe, with many producers going out of business as they are unable to find alternative markets.

“A simple and relatively straightforward change we could make is to renegotiate the veterinary agreement with the EU,” he said, adding that it would require aligning UK and EU standards so it is easier to export into those markets.

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Commenting on Labour’s years of decline in support in rural and farming communities in recent years, Mr Reed said the party’s fortunes are turning for the better.

“For a long time Labour hasn’t offered a strong enough set of policy proposals to those areas and have not been able to win their support,” he said.

“Labour is offering to give farmers and rural communities their future back, after the Tories seem to have taken it away,” he added, noting the Selby by-election showed what the party is capable of doing in rural areas at the next election.

In addition to removing barriers to trade, Mr Reed said the party will push forward proposals to bring down energy bills for British farmers, which he claims the highest energy bills in Europe, forcing 7,000 food producers out of business since 2019.

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He is expected to tell the party’s conference in Liverpool today that rural communities such as Scarborough and Whitby have been “abandoned” by the Conservatives, leaving “our great countryside in peril”.

“Once thriving farming heartlands - that have been left to slide into decline.

“They’ve seen public transport dismantled, good local jobs stripped away, falling pay and rising poverty, but Labour will turn the tide.”

It comes as Sir Keir Starmer is set to lay out a positive vision for the UK’s future, as both he and Rishi Sunak attempt to present themselves as the candidates representing change at the next election.

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He is expected to say: “People are looking to us because they want our wounds to heal and we are the healers. People are looking to us because these challenges require a modern state and we are the modernisers. People are looking to us because they want us to build a new Britain and we are the builders.

“The Scottish people are not just looking at us, they’re also looking at Britain. For the first time in a long time we can see a tide that is turning.

"Four nations that are renewing. Old wounds of division – exploited by the Tories and the SNP - beginning to heal. Let the message from Rutherglen ring out across Britain: Labour serves working people in Scotland because Labour serves working people across all these islands.”