Brexit deal provides certainty, Gove to tell farmers

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Combine harvester on farm in Lincolnshire.
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Theresa May’s Brexit deal gives farmers certainty about the future, Environment Secretary Michael Gove will say.

In a speech to the Oxford Farming Conference, Mr Gove will argue the agreement struck last year will ensure a smooth transition period for agriculture after the UK leaves the EU.

He will also say Brexit will provide farmers with a “world of opportunity”.

Mr Gove will pledge investment in robotics, artificial intelligence and other innovation, to boost yields.

In his speech, the environment secretary will promise to “continue to demonstrate the case for, and put in place the policies that underpin, long-term investment in British agriculture and the rural economy”.

He will say: “A week can be a long time in politics, but farming requires the patience and foresight to see beyond the immediate and scan the far horizon.

“It is a quintessentially long-term business, one that benefits from as much certainty as possible about the future.”

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The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March, with MPs due to vote in the Commons in mid-January on the prime minister’s withdrawal bill.

Urging MPs to support the prime minister’s deal, Mr Gove will acknowledge it “isn’t perfect”.

But he will highlight the fact that it ensures that farmers’ current access to the EU is unaffected during the 21-month transition period following Brexit.

Mr Gove will also say he believes the deal will allow UK exporters to maintain continuous tariff-free and quota-free access to EU markets.

He will add “it allows us largely to diverge from EU regulation after the transition, to leave the Common Agricultural Policy and end all mandatory payments to the EU”.

The National Farmer’s Union has long highlighted fears about the potential disruption of Brexit and delays at borders if a deal is not reached.

It also wants the government to relax environmental regulations and do more to ensure stability.

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Mr Gove’s speech comes as campaigners are calling on him to set up an independent regulator to ensure minimum standards to protect water, soil, wildlife and animal welfare are maintained after Brexit.

The Nature Friendly Farming Network is warning that long-term food security will be at risk unless “ambitious” guidelines for the industry are set out in the Agriculture Bill, which outlines the policy for the industry after Brexit.

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