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Environment and farming ministers are split over Brexit

The environment and farming ministers have taken opposing sides in the Brexit debate, and outlined contrasting visions for the future of the UK's agriculture industry

British farmland

Farming minister George Eustice believes the industry would be better off if Britain left the EU

Environment minister Elizabeth Truss and farming minister George are split over the issue of Brexit.

Mr Eustice surprised many in the farming industry when he gave his support last month to the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union (EU), while Ms Truss revealed she is backing the Prime Minister’s campaign to stay in, despite her eurosceptic leanings.

An opportunity to debate our future

Mr Eustice said: “The Prime Minister deserves huge credit for delivering this referendum and we now have an opportunity to debate our future, how we are governed and how our laws are made. I have been an advocate of renegotiation for 15 years but, in the end, despite the  endeavours of David Cameron, the sort of fundamental reform I wanted to see was not possible.

“I have therefore come to the conclusion that the only way to deliver the change I want to see is to vote to leave, to end the supremacy of EU law and replace our membership of the EU with a new UK-EU partnership.

“I believe that if this country has the courage to act decisively and take control, then in five years’ time the only question people will ask is why we didn’t do it sooner,” he continued.

Impact of Brexit on the UK agricultural industry

After coming out in support of Brexit, Mr Eustice faced calls to clarify how leaving the EU would impact the UK agricultural industry. He said that, in his vision,  a post-EU Britain would maintain its free trade agreements with EU member states, while making key legislative and regulatory decisions in concert with Europe.

Mr Eustice also explained that financial support for farmers would continue through a new simplified, national system, replacing the existing EU subsidies, and suggested that financial incentives could be introduced to support animal-friendly and  farming methods.

Ms Truss likewise set out her reasons in an impassioned plea to farmers to vote to stay in the EU at the National Farmers’ Union conference in Birmingham last month.

She said: “At a time of severe price volatility and global market uncertainty, I believe it would be wrong to take a leap in the dark.

“The years of complication and risk caused by negotiating withdrawal would be a distraction from our efforts to build a world-leading food and farming industry that brings jobs and growth to Britain.

“I believe we would be stronger, safer and better off in a reformed Europe, but ultimately it will be for the British people to decide.”