Given such additional necessary workloads, whether in Whitehall, Westminster, Cathays Park or Cardiff Bay, the logic of ensuring no additional unnecessary work-streams are created seems self evident – yet in relation to agricultural policies, quite the opposite has happened, with radical proposed changes to farm support and environmental measures adding not only to existing workloads for civil servants, but also uncertainty and worry for farmers.
Such proposals and additional work demands additional political scrutiny by committees in Cardiff Bay and Westminster – committees that should really be focussed on scrutinising the essential work being undertaken in relation to Brexit, rather than mulling over radical proposals such as those contained in the Uk Government’s Agriculture Bill and the consultations launched in England and Wales. And of course, legislation and proposals which have been poorly scrutinised due to other priorities makes for bad law.
It is such dangers that led the FUW to warn, on the day after the EU Referendum, that “there is a monumental amount of work to do in terms of changing domestic arrangements and legislation, including in terms of Welsh devolved legislation, not to mention unravelling us from the EU budget to which we were previously committed, negotiating trade deals and dealing with issues such as border controls.” We also called for “…the Uk and EU to agree on a sensible timetable for Brexit after the Uk electorate voted to leave the EU – or risk dire consequences for both the Uk and the remaining 27 Member States.”
Not only were such warnings not heeded, but what looks very much like desperate opportunism in anticipation of being unshackled from EU regulations has added significantly and unnecessary to workloads already at breaking point – not to mention additional worries and uncertainty for farmers already about to enter choppy if not stormy waters.
Let us hope that 2019 brings some calm after the recent political storm, and some common sense to boot.
But it’s not just governments that have been under strain: the union staff has had to ride an extra wave of effort to deal with the issues created by Brexit. There are more government- driven “stakeholder” group meetings now that I can ever recall. All our county offices have truly embraced the challenge of ensuring that Assembly Members and MPs are aware of concerns for the future of agriculture. They also played a tremendous part in briefing members on the Welsh Government’s consultation “Brexit and our Land” that enabled us to gain responses from over 2,000 members.
I, therefore, must say a big “Thank you” to all our staff for rising to the challenges. Our messages have been communicated consistently and often and without doubt, they have been heard. It was, after all, our #FairFarmFunding campaign that secured a commitment from the Uk Government about the future funding arrangements for agriculture post Brexit. I can assure you all that I am very proud of those efforts.
It’s been a tough year, but hopefully, the tough times will not last much longer. But we should take comfort in knowing that tough people WILL last long and together we are definitely in a strong place.