Independent review of post-Brexit UK farm subsidies announced

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The UK Government has announced an independent review of how farm funding is distributed across the UK following Brexit.

The independent advisory panel will look at how subsidies are handed out to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from the UK’s exit from the EU until 2022 to ensure they are “fairly split”.

The UK Government confirmed it will not use the Barnett formula alone as a basis for distributing farm funds post-2022.

The review will provide recommendations on how to distribute this cash once the UK has left the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (Cap), which controls agricultural subsidies.

These recommendations will be “informed by previous allocations of convergence funding” from the EU but “will not revisit these decisions or redistribute money that has already been committed”, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said in a statement.

The Scottish Government and Scottish farming organisations argue Scotland is owed the £190 million of EU convergence uplift payments to the UK between 2014-2020.

The convergence cash was triggered due to the low rate of Cap payments given to Scottish hill farmers.

Aimed at distributing the subsidies more fairly based on average euros per hectare, the UK only qualified for the payments through Scotland, as England, Wales and Northern Ireland were all above the threshold.

By May 2018, the UK Government had allocated around £30 million of the uplift payments to Scotland, with the rest being distributed around the UK, leading to allegations the money has been “stolen” from Scotland’s farmers, which the UK Government denies.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said the review will consider each country’s circumstances, including environmental, agricultural and socio-economic factors, including farm numbers and sizes.

Lord Bew, the former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, will lead the review and representatives from each of the devolved administrations will be represented on the panel.

Mr Gove said: “This important review, led by Lord Bew, will explore how we can deliver funding for farmers that supports the individual needs of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“We are committed to making sure that future funding is fairly allocated, and are also confirming that the Government won’t simply apply the Barnett formula to Defra’s funding beyond this parliament.

“Meanwhile our funding commitment up until the end of the Parliament gives more certainty for UK farmers than any other EU member state.”

Lord Bew said: “I’m very pleased to be chairing this review to explore an issue that is important to so many in the agriculture sector.

“I am anxious to consult widely and I look forward to getting started as soon as my fellow panel members have been appointed.”

A Scottish Government spokesman welcomed the review but warned: “This review must not simply be an exercise in playing for time in delivering funding to Scotland’s farmers which is rightfully theirs.

“The only reason the UK, as the Member State, qualified for an uplift is because of Scotland – therefore, the only fair funding solution for Scottish farmers and crofters is for them to receive the £160 million in convergence funding due to them. Anything less than this is completely unacceptable.”

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