Owen Paterson said the scrapping of Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement was “good news” for farmers across the UK because it would pave the way for a new and improved farming model. The prominent Brexiteer’s claims come after he dismissed a leaked government document on no-deal warnings as “project fear”. The Conservative MP for North Shropshire said the report on Operation Yellowhammer, which suggested there could be food and medicine shortages after a hard Brexit, was “an attempt to frighten” the British public.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said: “Boris Johnson’s unequivocal message that the Withdrawal Agreement is ‘dead’ is good news for the UK’s farmers.
“Its dire ramifications would have all but ceded control of UK agriculture to the EU.
“We would not even have been free to decide the levels of financial support for landowners; the terms of the Agreement would have forced the UK to keep support for British producers pegged at the 2019 level while allowing EU competitors to increase theirs, handing them an enormous advantage.”
Mr Paterson said the UK must distance itself from production subsidies in order to break into new markets.
Instead, he said, farmers should be offered cash rewards for rolling out schemes benefitting the environment and the public.
Those who maintain the landscape, improve biodiversity, promote soil quality and focus on water management.
But Welsh Labour leader and First Minister Mark Drakeford slammed Mr Johnson, saying he was unable to spell out exactly how he would come to the aid of farmers in a hard Brexit scenario.
Ruairi McHugh, a Sinn Fein councillor in Derry City and Strabane District Council in Northern Ireland, warned that a hard Brexit would have devastating consequences for farmers along the 310-mile boundary.
He told Express.co.uk: “There’s a big fear among the farming community.
“I absolutely believe that if there’s a hard border and the UK crashes out of the EU it will be devastating particularly for the farmers in the area.
“Here in Castlederg, it’s just a mile-and-a-half from the border. During the Troubles, there would have been farmers with land on two sides of the border and because there was no border road open they would have had to travel 30 miles just to get to their agricultural land on the other side.”