Gove To Give Brexit Speech In Oxford

4 January 2018, 07:32

Michael Gove

Farming subsidies will be replaced by payments for planting woodland, boosting wildlife, helping improve water quality and recreating wildflower meadows, Michael Gove said.

In a speech to the Oxford Farming Conference on Thursday, the Environment Secretary will set out plans for farming after Brexit, including a switch from the current system of payments for land owned to using public money to pay for public goods.

Along with spending on environmental protection, Mr Gove will also outline how he wants to see taxpayers' money go to boosting public access to the countryside, and on technology, skills, infrastructure, and supporting rural communities.

The speech, which comes ahead of the Government's agriculture plans being published in the spring, will outline how the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy will be replaced after the UK leaves the bloc.

Mr Gove will tell farmers that the EU's policies, designed to ensure food security in a post-war world, are "fundamentally flawed" and Brexit will give the UK the opportunity to create its own policies on food and agriculture.

The Common Agriculture Policy, which pays land owners mostly on the basis of the amount of land they have is "unjust, inefficient and drives perverse outcomes", and efforts to "green" the payments have brought very little environmental benefits, he will say.

It was designed, he will say, in a period when memories of food shortages were "hauntingly powerful" and despite evolving, it still sees the most public money paid to those who have the most private wealth.

It also bids up the price of land, rewards farmers for sticking to resource-inefficient methods, and pays for an approach to looking after the countryside which is all about "mathematically precise field margins" not healthy landscapes, he claims.

The move towards spending money on delivering public goods is part of a four-point plan, which also includes developing a coherent policy on food and giving farmers time and tools to adapt to the future to avoid a "precipitate cliff edge".

The plans also include building "natural capital" - the value nature provides to society - into the approach to land management to build a sustainable future for the countryside.

Mr Gove is expected to confirm the current payment system, which sees £3 billion a year paid to UK farmers and landowners, will continue until 2024, longer than the Government had previously pledged.

After that, he will say, it will be replaced with spending on public goods, with the main area of investment focused on enhancing the environment.

"Building on previous countryside stewardship and agri-environment schemes, we will design a scheme accessible to almost any land owner or manager who wishes to enhance the natural environment by planting woodland, providing new habitats for wildlife, increasing biodiversity, contributing to improved water quality and returning cultivated land to wildflower meadows or other more natural states.

"We will also make additional money available for those who wish to collaborate to secure environmental improvements collectively at landscape scale.

"Enhancing our natural environment is a vital mission for this Government," he will say.

Despite concerns that leaving the European Union will undermine the UK's animal welfare and environmental protections, Mr Gove will insist that it will enable Britain to deliver policies to achieve a "green Brexit".