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Brexit must free UK farming from grip of Brussels regulation - NPA

31st Mar 2017 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA has called on the Government to use Brexit to deliver a more proportionate and sensible regulatory regime for the farming sector.

DDBrexit Secretary David Davis unveiled the Government’s plans to end EU control over UK law on Thursday, following the triggering of Article 50 by Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday.

The Great Repeal Bill will repeal the European Communities Act, which enshrines EU law as supreme to the UK's and remove the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Coming into force the day the UK leaves the EU, it would initially transpose existing EU legislation into domestic UK law, including vast swathes of legislation that directly affects farmers.

Mr Davis said the Bill would allow the UK Parliament and Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland administrations to scrap, amend and improve laws.

Fundamental review

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “It makes sense to initially transpose existing EU law into UK legislation on the day we leave the EU. This will provide continuity and help minimise disruption to EU trade.

“However, we see Brexit as an opportunity for a fundamental review of all the current EU laws that affect farmers. This review, which will need to balance sensible regulation with trading requirements, must begin almost immediately.

“Some of the EU’s environmental regulations in particular, notably the Nitrates Directive, have caused huge frustrations to pig producers, adding burdens entirely disproportionate to the goals they are trying to achieve.

“We will be consulting members to identify specific areas where we feel change is needed and will expect the Government to deliver on Brexit campaign pledges to free producers from the grip of Brussels regulation.”

The NPA will also be seeking clarity on the status of zinc oxide, which is likely to banned at EU level, once we leave the union.

Farming unions

The UK’s four main farming unions have also called for a post-Brexit regulatory framework suited to UK farmers.

Following a meeting in Northern Ireland, the NFU, Ulster Farmers’ Union, NFU Cymru, and NFU Scotland issued a joint statement.

NFU President Meurig Raymond said: “Our departure from the EU must be an opportunity, not just to ensure continuity but to deliver a regulatory framework suited to UK farmers, whether through the Great Repeal Bill process or through other legislative and regulatory measures.

“The task of transferring the vast expanse of existing EU law into UK law will be one of the biggest legislative challenges this country has ever faced.

“And farming is probably impacted more than any other sector, with a huge number of pieces of directly applicable EU legislation and national implementing regulations governing the way our farmers carry out their day-to-day businesses. Most importantly it must not jeopardise our future trading relationship with Europe. 

“Too often, farmers have been burdened by rules and requirements that stifle their ability to farm for no discernible benefit.”

Phased approach

Meanwhile, the EU has outlined its desire for a phased approach to Brexit strategy, suggesting trade talks could begin after ‘sufficient progress’ on a separation settlement with the UK.

European Council President Donald Tusk unveiled the draft guidelines in Malta on Friday. He said: "Only once we have achieved sufficient progress on the withdrawal can we discuss the framework for our future relationship."

The guidelines confirm the EU is expecting a major financial contribution from the UK, estimated to be as much as €60bn (£51bn).