As published on the Politics Home website on 19 October 2016
Farming and fishing are integral to the economy of the South West, whether we are in or out of the EU. But like many in the region, I saw the merits of leaving the European Union to unshackle these two sectors from the bureaucratic meddling of the unelected Brussels elite.
Alongside tourism, both are hugely important to the South West's economy and they must continue to thrive and be supported.
"I want to see the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) torn up the day that our Article 50 negotiations are concluded, with British equivalents taking their place."
Both farmers and fisherman get a raw deal under the EU, but I have said before that Brexit isn't an automatic golden ticket to higher milk prices, less red tape or tonnes of extra fish. It is down to the Government to get a good deal and a clean withdrawal from the EU, as well as Whitehall reflecting on itself and its own policies and processes.
Brexit isn't just an opportunity to leave the EU, but it's also an avenue to initiate reform across Whitehall to make it less bureaucratic, whether it's the processing of farm subsidies, the allocation of fish quotas or the awarding of regional funding. Not only can we escape the Brussels machine, but we can make our own cogs and gears turn faster as well.
I want to see the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) torn up the day that our Article 50 negotiations are concluded, with British equivalents taking their place.
"Our fisherman deserve better, and I want to see fishing communities back on their feet and thriving."
Under the (CAP), our farmers have been paying their hard earned taxes to subsidise their European competitors by billions of pounds. Under the CAP, they have been continually marooned in red tape, with a subsidy system that has no place in their hearts for its administrative incompetence. Under the CAP, they can't bury their dead animals and instead must pay for unnecessary and costly disposal, while adhering to laws such as the Three Crop Rule.
Under the CFP, our fisherman have seen the exclusive economic zone reduced to just 12 miles, while foreign boats enter British waters with huge quotas. Our fisherman are often left throwing tonnes of fish overboard because of Brussels' rules. Fishing communities have crumbled in recent years, with boats reduced to ashes.
Our fisherman deserve better, and I want to see fishing communities back on their feet and thriving.
We should implement a British Agricultural Policy and a British Fisheries Policy which put farmers and fisherman first.
For both, the Government should actively promote their produce at home and abroad. We need to become more self-sufficient in the UK, and a good start would be the selection of British meat, fish, fruit and vegetables for our Civil Service, schools and Armed Forces. Currently, EU law means we can't do this.
Farmers also need a continual flow of labour. In the long term, we can focus on getting more young, unemployed and unskilled people to work on farms and actively promote the agriculture sector as a good place to work. This can be across Whitehall with joined up initiatives between the DWP, DfBEIS and DEFRA*.
In the meantime, farmers need access to workers in the EU who work hard to put food on our tables. Under a reformed immigration policy which treats everyone fairly, agricultural work permits need to be considered and given some of the highest priority so that we do not face shortages in labour where our food is left rotting in the fields.
Meanwhile, our fisherman need to have support from Government so that when the sun rises over a wholly independent and sovereign Britain in two years’ time, they will have sufficient boats and men to take advantage of bigger quotas within their own waters. As well as existing communities which have capacity to grow, there are many other coastal towns and villages which can once again become fishing communities.
"Brexit will bring some uncertainty in the short term, but in the long term, I am certain that our farmers and fisherman will be better off and more prosperous out of the EU."
Even with fishing, though, which is one of the most compelling reasons to leave the EU, there will be some negotiating with Brussels. Our boats will want to maintain access to European markets.
Leaving the Single Market, which needs to happen, could inevitably lead to some tariffs, but we could compound this by allowing EU boats into UK waters under a reciprocal arrangement. The difference, though, is that we will have control over those waters, the quotas and the conservation of fish stocks while being able to put our own fisherman first.
Brexit will bring some uncertainty in the short term, but in the long term, I am certain that our farmers and fisherman will be better off and more prosperous out of the EU. We need to deliver on Brexit and make sure that our farmers and fisherman get a better deal than they currently get.
* DWP - Department for Work & Pensions; DfBEIS - Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy; DEFRA - Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs