‘Brussels red tape will be scrapped so UK farmers can get on with farming’

Red tape from being a member of the EU will be scrapped to help British farmers get on and grow fantastic food in the aftermath of Brexit, Andrea Leadsom, Environment Secretary at DEFRA, has said today.

Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference to leaders from the food and farming industry today, she said that billboards publicising EU funding and rules on how many crops farmers should grow are examples of red tape that should be scrapped.

The Environment Secretary highlighted EU regulations that are weighing down farmers in mountains of paperwork and stopping them getting on with the job of growing fantastic British food.

Dealing with red tape and farm inspections is estimated to cost the industry £5m per year and the loss of 300,000 hours, according to DEFRA.

The Government will be consulting industry later this year on areas they would like to see reformed, and how a more common sense approach could be applied.

In her keynote speech Andrea Leadsom said that for too long, a bureaucratic system which tries to meet the needs of 28 countries has held farmers back.

“But now, leaving the EU means we can focus on what works best for the United Kingdom.”

By cutting the red tape that comes out of Brussels, we will free our farmers to grow more, sell more and export more great British food whilst upholding our high standards for plant and animal health and welfare.

She said that her priority will be common sense rules that work for the United Kingdom.

Following the UK’s departure from the EU, she said that the UK will be free to scrap rules requiring farmers and rural businesses to pay for and display billboards or posters to publicise the EU contribution for grants to grow their businesses.

These signs – measuring as much as 6ft x 4ft for the biggest grants – must be displayed permanently to avoid a penalty, she said.

The UK will be free to ditch the ‘three crop rule’ which sets out how many different crops farms must plant each year and free 40,000 farmers to grow the foods people want – adding millions of pounds to the economy, according to Leadsom.

Furthermore, she said that the UK will be free to relax rules requiring complicated definitions applied across Europe to identify features in farmers’ fields for subsidy payments – such as what makes a hedge a hedge or when a puddle becomes a pond – and instead adopt a simpler approach.

Reducing the amount of paperwork flood-hit farmers need to provide to support claims for repairs for recovery of their land, allowing them to get on with urgent building work more quickly, will also be something the UK will be able to do, she said.

Leadsom said that following the UK’s exit from the EU, it will be able to reduce the number of government inspections on farms, by streamlining them or replacing them by better use of aerial photography.

“We’ve already cut 4,000 inspections this year and aim to remove 20,000 by 2020.

“I’m committed to securing the best possible deal for British farmers, and I look forward to working with all of you, to secure the future of this great industry.”