by alan Davies, FUW managing director
iF i told you that there’s an opportunity to introduce dog licences now that we are leaving the eU, you’d probably tell me that i’m barking mad. and you’d be right.
But there is already a similar madness taking place when the Welsh Government are telling us that leaving the eU gives us the opportunity to get rid of the Basic Payment Scheme. There is simply no connection between the two.
Thinking a bit more about this weak starting point for stimulating change i thought about the Welsh Government’s desired state. They have been clear in the period leading up to the referendum that Wales would be better off in the eU. if they had had their way, Wales and the UK would have voted to stay in the eU. and had that been the case then we would have remained part of the common agricultural Policy and therefore in receipt of Basic Payments.
and then i wondered a bit more about how often i’ve heard the Welsh Government complaining about the caP, or the BPS and you know what: it’s really hard to find any criticism. indeed there’s almost a sense of pride here in Wales that our very own “Rural Payments Wales” is the best payments team in the UK and something we should be proud of. That means: proud of a team that exists to deliver the basic payments that come as part of the caP from an organisation that the Welsh Government would sooner stay a part of.
When i look for evidence that the caP is failing to deliver what we need then that too is hard to find. i know there are moans and groans about the minutiae of bureaucracy but has there been a formal attempt by the Welsh Government to make any fundamental changes to caP? i can’t find any.
But now, now when the rules can be changed, suddenly it’s all change. The current suggestion from the Welsh Government is that fundamental change is necessary and they must get rid of Basic Payments and shift focus to different priorities for farming support.
no: when i look at this i can only think of one word to sum it all up: Opportunistic.
Just as Brexit is often cited as the reason for so many possible problems it also has become a reason why things should or could happen. To tie up a need to change the Basic Payment system with our leaving the eU in March next year is simply Opportunism at its worst.
Moreover it is adding a ridiculously unnecessary level of uncertainty and complexity at a time when we are simply not able to manage it. it is potentially setting farmers against farmers, communities against communities. haven’t we got bigger things to deal with?
The next two months are absolutely critical to determining how the UK will leave the eU. Until some very big decisions are taken we will have no inkling of what our future will look like. nor will we have any idea of what markets we will have access to and what new financial risks we are likely to face. it is therefore nigh on irresponsible to layer in more uncertainty at this time.
it would have been far better had the Welsh Government set out its high level desire for change over, say, a 20 year time scale, whilst also guaranteeing absolutely no change for at least three years whilst eU exit or transition takes place.
During the first period some real planning based on economic facts could have been started and even some small changes be made to start recognising some of the valuable work already being done by farmers in delivering environmental outcomes.
Furthermore it could even have given time for potential governments in Wales to set out their stall for agricultural support and by extension support for Rural Wales, as part of their election manifestos. instead we have got an opportunistic outline of a set of thoughts that could do irreparable damage to rural Wales as they are based not on fact but feeling.
They are being proposed at a period of maximum uncertainty: there is no clear indication of long term funding from UK Government, there is no will from Welsh Government to fund the changes from existing budgets and we simply don’t know what state we will be in in two or three months time let alone next year and beyond. That is why this consultation makes no sense to me.