Politics

Scotland to continue EU scheme after Brexit transition period ends

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Holyrood has said farmers would continue to benefit from the £130 million scheme after ties with Brussels have been completely severed. The initiative has been in place since 2015 under the bloc’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Rural communities are boosted by extra payments given to farmers for complying with certain regulations.

Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing pointed out that Holyrood legislation included powers to continue the CAP after Brexit.

He said the Scottish Government would be able to “make improvements that are tailored to suit Scotland’s unique agricultural and rural needs”.

Mr Ewing, who serves in Nicola Sturgeon’s Cabinet, said the changes being introduced “mark the first steps to implement simplifications and improvements to the administration of CAP schemes”.

The announcement was welcomed by the president of the National Farmers Union (NFU) in Scotland.

The organisation represents around 10,000 farmers, crofters and other agricultural workers.

Andrew McCornick said the group had “consistently argued that the EU’s blunt Greening rules were poorly targeted on Scottish environmental issues”.

He said the latest announcement from the Scottish Government was a “significant step in the right direction”.

Mr McCornick added: “Scrapping the crop diversification requirement (three crop rule) makes for common sense, while the importance of permanent grassland and efficient input use should be explored in the context of both climate ambitions and business performance.”

With Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) being kept in the short term subject to a wider review, Mr McCornick said: “The Union has long advocated smarter, more effective options that are also less onerous.

“If the principle of EFAs is to be retained, then it’s right that farmer-led revisions are made to embrace climate change as well as biodiversity.”

The move comes as fears of a no-deal Brexit this week stepped up a notch following a crunch meeting between Michel Barnier and David Frost in London.

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The discussion on Tuesday failed to provide any breakthrough in the deadlocked post-Brexit trade talks.

Both sides are due to kick off the next round of negotiations on Tuesday.

This week a former NFU chief economist warned that one in three farms could collapse within five years if a free trade deal is not secured.

Sean Rickard said when the Government phased out direct payments to growers and livestock producers it would deal a heavy blow to farmers, many of whom are already struggling.

He said half of all farms were already operating without a profit.

Mr Rickard said: “It is very, very difficult to be precise, but I would be prepared to say that in the event of no deal, you would lose at least one-third of farmers and probably more.”

With no sign of a deal in sight, the EU has demanded a potential veto on Britain’s post-Brexit laws and regulations, The Times newspaper reported on Saturday, citing senior government officials.

Mr Barnier is said to be insisting that the UK must agree not to implement any change to UK legislation that could distort trade with the bloc without first consulting Brussels.

Mr Frost, has rejected the approach, The Times reported.

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