CAP rules are still crucial despite UK's Brexit vote

Despite the Brexit vote, Scotland's farmers are likely to find themselves operating under the current common agricultural policy (CAP) rules for the next two years at least '“ and a demand that current gold-plating of these regulations is stripped out was issued yesterday.

NFUS president Allan Bowie said Scotland's growers 'deserve the best deal'. Picture: Contributed
NFUS president Allan Bowie said Scotland's growers 'deserve the best deal'. Picture: Contributed

Challenging the Scottish Government’s rural economy cabinet secretary Fergus Ewing to remove regulations which it sees as the source of a major competitive disadvantage for Scotland’s arable farmers, NFU Scotland has called for a simplification of the greening rules.

And union president Allan Bowie yesterday invited Ewing to visit an arable farm to see for himself how Scotland’s current greening measures were affecting farms and hear how growers in other parts of the UK operate with less restrictive rules.

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Even though proposals to simplify some of the measures are likely to be released shortly by EU farm commissioner Phil Hogan, Bowie said that much still needed to be done on the home front as well. Areas where the union believed the Scottish rules were gold plated included the regulations surrounding the growing of nitrogen fixing crops (NFC); the option to use of conversion factors for ecological focus areas (EFA); grazing on buffer strips; management of fallow land and a greater choice of EFA options including forestry and hedges.

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Bowie said that securing the best deal for Scotland’s producers under both the existing and the new arrangements was paramount: “Given the uncertainty ahead, Scotland’s growers deserve to get the best deal from greening measures and Scottish Government must strip out its own gold-plating.”

He said this would make the remaining CAP years more manageable for growers while still delivering meaningful environmental benefits.

The union also revealed it had drawn up a briefing on the likely timeline for the UK’s negotiations to conclude its exit from the European Union following the results of last week’s referendum.

Produced by the union’s parliamentary officer, Clare Slipper, the briefing makes it plain that no immediate changes are on the cards for Scotland’s farmers, with both Scotland and the rest of the UK continuing to operate as members of the EU until discussions are concluded – a process which is likely to take two years at least.

However, it suggests that the tone and outcome of the withdrawal negotiations are likely to set the scene for the country’s future relationship with Europe.

The briefing states that official notification that the UK intends to quit the union – Article 50 which effectively represents the serving of the divorce papers – is unlikely to be triggered until a new Prime Minister is in position towards the end of October. There will then be a period of discussions and negotiations which is likely to last the two years allowed – but which could go on for longer if unanimously agreed.

However, Slipper said the UK’s withdrawal could also be possible without agreement: “In this case the UK would cease to be a member of the EU two years from notifying that it intended to leave.”