Deal on transition period delays Agriculture Bill

Defra Secretary Michael Gove has told MPs the UK-EU agreement on a transition deal has delayed publication of the Agriculture Bill.

Mr Gove made the remarks when he appeared before the Environmental Audit Committee yesterday.

The Bill was originally due to be published in spring, but he admitted the transition deal, due to end on December 31 2020, had taken the urgency out of the situation.

He also said he wanted the Government to take account of the responses to the future farming policy consultation before publishing the Bill, which is now expected to be released in the ‘second half of this year’.

“We published a Command Paper on agriculture which we are currently consulting on”, Mr Gove told the committee.

“We want to make sure immediately after that consultation we have got some time to take stock of the responses and make sure people appreciate this consultation is not a Potemkin exercise, but a real attempt to grapple with some of the issues which have been raised not just by those who work in agriculture, but by everyone who has an interest in the farmed environment.”

The Environment Act, which will create a new environmental watchdog to hold the Government to account after Brexit, has also been delayed because the transition period has been agreed.

Mr Gove said he now expects that piece of legislation, which has been given a lukewarm reception by farming groups, to be in next year’s Queen’s Speech.

A separate consultation on a new policy statement which will set out the Government’s environmental principles will also be launched within ‘weeks’.

This statement will underpin future policy-making and the Defra Secretary confirmed it would contain the controversial precautionary principle.

The NFU has criticised the EU for inappropriate application of the precautionary principle, which it claims has on occasion meant law-makers have made decisions based on theoretical harm, as opposed to actual risk, particularly when it comes to plant protection products.

Previously, Environment Minister Therese Coffey said she thought the Government might want to pursue a more risk-based approach, but Mr Gove told MPs yesterday the principle would ‘have to be’ included in British law, adding he ‘could not imagine’ any area where it may not apply.

Published by our sister company Farmers Guardian.  Follow their Brexit hub for all the latest updates.

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