Welsh farmers refuse to back down from ‘Brexit betrayal’ accusation against UK Government
Welsh farmers have stuck to their guns after the Tories called on them to withdraw claims of a “Brexit betrayal” by the UK Government.
The Farmers’ Union of Wales said the Welsh agriculture budget was being slashed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s decision in the spending review.
But Janet Finch-Saunders MS, the Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Energy and Rural Affairs called for those claiming there were cuts to “withdraw their inaccurate claims immediately.”
However, the union has refused to back down and have said that the Tories are counting figures that they shouldn’t be in their calculations.
The Farmer’s Union of Wales said the Welsh agriculture budget is being cut by £95 million and that this breaks the promise they were made in the Conservative election manifesto that they wouldn’t lose out on any funding after Brexit.
It said that it expected Wales’ agricultural and rural development budget to be in the region of £337 million, but that the 2021-2022 budget will now be £242 million, which equates to a cut of around 28 per cent.
Nick Fenwick, Head of Policy at the FUW said: “Based on the official figures published by the 2013 coalition government and the EU, the average annual funding made available to Wales through the EU CAP for the 2014-2020 period was around £330 million. The allocation announced yesterday is £240 million, which is around £90 million lower.
“The explanation for the difference appears to be that unspent EU money from the 2014-2020 CAP budget (which can be carried over into next year and beyond) is being used to make up the difference in order to validate claims that the total budget is the same – but that ‘carried over’ funding comes from the 2014-2020 budgetary period so shouldn’t be counted.
“Our concerns are shared by the Welsh Government, the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive, as well as many others, and we have yet to receive a satisfactory explanation as to why a £90 million gap exists after unspent 2014-2020 funds are discounted.
“Until we receive satisfactory assurances that the Treasury will make the same amount available as the EU did through the CAP, we will maintain that the promise to match EU funding has not been met.”
He was responding to the comments Janet Finch-Saunders MS, who said: “The claims made of a ‘Brexit betrayal’ over the Welsh agriculture budget and supposed cuts are just plain wrong.
“Let me be clear; the UK Government committed to maintain the level of funding to farmers in Wales and between their funding and the tapering off of EU funds this is exactly what they are doing. Anyone that says anything different is spouting nonsense.
“Those who are suggesting that this is not the case must withdraw their inaccurate claims immediately.”
FUW President Glyn Roberts responded to the budget by saying the decision to slash the budget was a “complete betrayal” of farmers.
“This adds to the extreme anger already felt following the UK government’s decision to oppose a legislative ‘red line’ in the Agriculture Bill that would have prevented the importation of low quality food in future trade deals,” he said.
“The significant impacts such a cut in funding will have on Welsh farms, agricultural businesses and rural communities are clear, and these will come at a time when the industry is already anticipating major problems due to non-tariff barriers, unfair competition from sub-standard imports and the possibility of massive EU tariff barriers in the event of a no-deal Brexit”.
Rebecca Evans, Wales Finance Minister, accused the chancellor of “broken promises” on the budget.
She said: “If you’re looking for a serious failure of management of funding, and if you’re looking for a betrayal of the farming industry, I think that you can find it right there.”