HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By MP John Hayes
Since the British people voted to leave the European Union, many nervous experts and commentators have focused exclusively on the risks of Brexit. As we are bombarded with dire warnings and forecasts, it almost seems that some doom-mongers want the misery they predict to come to pass.
The data is different; in fact the British economy has outperformed all expectations over the past 6 months, the IMF gauges the UK as the fastest growing advanced economy and business investment continues to grow, with firms creating more jobs.
Whilst recent good economic news does not disguise the challenges ahead, it should turn our attention to the many opportunities that Brexit can bring.
With food production being the lifeblood of our local economy, the future regime for farmers and growers is particularly important here in South Holland.
The Common Agricultural Policy (which drains nearly 40% of the EU’s budget) has distorted the market for agricultural produce. Certainly once the EU expanded - and arguably long before - the CAP was a bureaucratic nonsense, flawed to its core. Put simply - the attempt to harmonise (always a loaded term when used by Eurocrats and their apologists!) the interests of Bulgarian tobacco growers, Greek goatherds with those of highly efficient British farm businesses necessitates a regime which is bound to be convoluted, expensive and bureaucratic.
Reform of the CAP being a perennial EU preoccupation, each costly change has left farmers and growers dependent upon the Rural Payments Agency making sense of intrinsically inappropriate rules and regulations.
Free from EU red tape, which costs our food industry millions of pounds each year, Britain can scrap unnecessary regulations. The days of absurd rules about what constitutes a hedge or a pond will be long gone, as will the distorting incentives and disincentives to grow particular crops. Farmers should - and will - be free to respond to market needs as they choose.
Leaving the European Union means we can prioritise what works for Britain, rather than being obliged to accommodate the needs of numerous foreign countries with widely different agricultural profiles. We must design our own farming policy, which continues to provide the financial support farmers need. To which end there is certainly no shortage of funds - Britain currently giving £6 billion a year to the CAP budget with our farmers getting only half back. Those who question why agriculture should be subsidised at all, should recognise that farming is not just another type of business - our land owners being the trusted guardians of the landscape available for us all to enjoy. From this belief springs my criticism of those few famers who abuse this sacred trust by concreting over precious, productive soil or piercing the countryside’s heart with ugly, industrial wind turbines.
Brexit is a once in a life time opportunity for British food and farming; a chance to build a fairer future which offers greater support to primary and secondary producers. South Holland and the Deepings has a rich agricultural heritage, but with our nation now free to determine its destiny, our chance to prosper has never been greater.