Awkward scenes as Andrea Leadsom gets thumbs down from farmers
Delegates at the Oxford Farming Conference were not convinced that Defra is ready for Brexit.
The environment secretary has failed to win over farmers with claims that her department has undergone an “amazing transformation” and is ready to meet the challenges of Brexit.
Andrea Leadsom told an audience at the Oxford Farming Conference: “In terms of our preparations for Brexit, we absolutely have the right resources and we are very carefully monitoring exactly what the need is. We've assessed that very carefully and shared that across Whitehall and got a great deal of support, so I’m confident that we have the right people and the right skillsets.”
But the audience was then asked for a show of hands to establish “who shares that confidence” – and not a single hand was raised by any of the farmers present.
Embarrassingly for the environment secretary, the only hand raised in her support appeared to be that of her ministerial deputy George Eustice.
In her speech to the conference, Leadsom said that slashing regulations for farmers will be the government’s key priority for the agriculture sector as Britain leaves the European Union,
“Over the past six years we’ve done everything we can to reduce this burden, but I’m quite sure everyone here can still think of at least one piece of EU regulation you won’t miss,” she told delegates.
“Now, as we prepare to leave the EU, I will be looking at scrapping the rules that hold us back and focusing instead on what works best for the UK.”
The environment secretary specifically pledged to end the “three-crop rule”, designed to mitigate the impact modern mass farming can have on the environment and local biodiversity. The measure was agreed by EU agriculture ministers in 2013 and decrees that some larger farms must grow a variety of crops.