UK farmers receive around €4 billion per year under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). In any Brexit scenario, the UK will leave the CAP when it leaves the EU. But what happens to farm payments in the event of a no deal Brexit?

This Insight – which has been updated following the Queen’s Speech – sets out the Government’s plans to continue to pay farmers after exit day and the legal measures to enable this to happen.

Farm payments after Brexit

When the UK leaves the EU, whether under a withdrawal agreement or not, it will leave the CAP. The CAP only applies to EU Member States.

The UK Government has said the UK will leave the EU on 31 October 2019. The Government has committed to retaining current overall level of cash support for farmers until the end of this Parliament. This commitment covers all funding provided for farm support under the current CAP and applies to the whole UK. CAP payments to UK farmers are currently paid under two pillars. Pillar 1 accounts for the majority of payments and are mainly direct payments to farms. Pillar 2 relates to agricultural support and rural development funding.

This commitment applies whether the UK exits the EU with a deal or not. Levels of funding after the end of this Parliament, and details of how funds might be apportioned have not been set out.

Framework for farm payments after Brexit

A new framework and legislative basis will be needed for farm support after Brexit and preparation for this is in train across the UK.

The Agriculture Bill

The Queen’s Speech on 14 October 2019 announced that new regimes were to be introduced for fisheries, agriculture and trade “seizing the opportunities that arise from leaving the European Union.” An Agriculture Bill is proposed with the same main aims as the Agriculture Bill 2017-19 that fell at prorogation of that Parliamentary Session. 

The background briefing on the Queen’ Speech notes that the purpose of the proposed Agriculture Bill is to:

  • Reform UK agriculture policy, putting the interests of farmers and land managers, the environment and taxpayers at its core.
  • Replace the current subsidy system, which simply pays farmers based on the total amount of land farmed, and instead reward them for the work they do to enhance the environment and produce high quality food in a more sustainable way.
  • Support farmers and land managers to ensure a smooth and gradual transition away from the bureaucratic Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to a system where farming efficiently and improving the environment go hand and hand.
  • Set out the framework for a new Environmental Land Management scheme, underpinned by the payment of public money for public goods […]

The Bill’s provisions would apply to England, with some provisions extending and applying across the UK. The Bill’s provisions will also apply to Wales and Northern Ireland at the request of Welsh Government Ministers and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

Secondary legislation

If the Agriculture Bill has not received Royal Assent at the time of Brexit, any provisions in it to enable Ministers to continue to make farm support payments would not be in place.

The Government has introduced secondary legislation to allow continuation of payments. Defra has laid a series of Statutory Instruments (SI’s) under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to make EU retained law operable in relation to agriculture, including measures on farm payments.

The joint explanatory memorandum to the Common Agricultural Policy (Direct Payments to Farmers) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, and The Common Agricultural Policy (Rules for Direct Payments) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 explains that their purpose is to allow for direct (farm) payments legislation to continue to operate effectively after Brexit. The SI’s apply to the whole of the UK.

No-deal technical notices

The Government has published a series of technical notices for stakeholders on no deal preparations. The Farm Payments if there’s no Brexit deal notice, as of 16 October 2019, states that:

“Eligible beneficiaries will continue to receive payments under the terms of the UK government’s funding guarantee.

“Defra and the devolved administrations are preparing domestic legislation (under the Withdrawal Act) to ensure the UK has the ability in law to continue operation of payments in a ‘no-deal’ scenario. This legislation preserves the EU law as it currently stands, and ‘fixes’ the legislation so that it is operable after the UK leaves the EU.

“The domestic legislation will require beneficiaries to conform to the same standards as they do currently, to receive payments. This will include on-site inspections to UK farms receiving payments, which will continue as normal.

“All of these rules and processes will remain the same until Defra and the devolved administrations introduce new agriculture policies, either through the Agriculture Bill, or an Agriculture Bill in one or more of the devolved parliaments.

“The government has pledged to continue to commit the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of this parliament, expected in 2022. This includes all funding provided for farm support under both Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 of the current CAP. This commitment applies to the whole UK.”

Farmers’ representatives have called for clarity on long term funding levels beyond 2022. The Tenant Farmers Association and the Country Land and Business Association, have called for a delay to any changes in payment schemes until the “economic realities of operating outside the EU are clearer.”

Further reading

About the authors: Sarah Coe and Jonathan Finlay are researchers in the Science and Environment Section at the House of Commons Library. Fergal Davis is Brexit Editor at the House of Commons Library.

Image: Agriculture / Matthias Ripp / CC BY 2.0