ANY future trade policy will have an impact on how we reward farmers for environmental gains when we leave the European Union, a policy expert has warned.
Dr Ludivine Petetin, from the School of Law and Politics at Cardiff University, briefed a packed room at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on “Balancing Environmental Payments and Trade”.
MPs, Lords and officials from conservation organisations gathered to gain an insight into the finer points of potential trade agreements and what might be the best decision for both farmers and the environment.
Discussing the different World Trade Organisation (WTO) options available, Dr Petetin urged “the amber box - a form of domestic support for agriculture - could be a way for the UK to move forward when making a transition from direct payments to environmental payments”.
This would not offer the unrestricted funding available under our current agreement, but would allow for subsidies to tested before applying for a higher level of support. Dr Petetin stressed the importance to not falling into a trap of overcommitting to an agreement that does not distort trade.
She added: “For as long as we are not sure that the system we create has no hidden subsidies, we must wait a bit. It is important to make sure that payments cannot be challenged by other countries.”
Her talk was followed by Dr Alastair Leake, GWCT’s head of policy, who focused on the opportunities working outside of the European Union might offer.
“We need the universally accessible environmental scheme that Sir Donald Curry advocated. 70% of farmers did take it up, until the EU rules made it too difficult for them,” said Dr Leake.
“Within the EU, we have completely failed to agree a soils directive. I’m not surprised by that, but we can do it UK-wide really rather well.”
Dr Leake also welcomed the government’s 25-year environment plan from DEFRA, particularly the intention to address a 93% failure of last year’s woodland planting target, something he described as ‘an epic miss’.
Sir Nicholas Soames chaired the event on March 27th.
About the APPG
The APPG was first introduced in 2010 as a forum that allows direct access to politicians.
They are held in Westminster three times a year where MPs from all parties are invited to meet GWCT staff for discussions and presentations on topical and controversial rural subjects.
It is also an opportunity for GWCT to deliver latest research findings and provide updates on current projects.
Notes to editors
The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust – providing research-led conservation for a thriving countryside. The GWCT is an independent wildlife conservation charity which has carried out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife since the 1930s. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats. We employ 22 post-doctoral scientists and 50 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming, fish and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from Government and private bodies. The Trust is also responsible for a number of Government Biodiversity Action Plan species and is lead partner for grey partridge and joint lead partner for brown hare and black grouse.
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Telephone: 01425 651000