To date, the new government has made no commitment at all to replace the EU structural funding from which Wales benefits with an alternative regional policy within the UK. Strangely, however, none of the reasons which apparently prevent them making that commitment have prevented them from committing to retaining farming subsidies after Brexit.
Whilst Welsh farmers certainly do derive benefit from the CAP subsidies, some of the most eye-watering amounts actually go to the richest landowners in England – some of whom are large donors to the Tories. So monies which are targeted at the poorest communities cannot be guaranteed; those which just happen to benefit the richest are being guaranteed. How surprising.
No doubt farmers will be pleased that they, at least, will not suffer the immediate financial consequences of withdrawal; for many farms in Wales (assuming that, given the way the block grant operates, the Welsh Government follows the same policy as the English Government in this case), the monies paid out under CAP are all that keeps them in business at all.
But hold on a minute – wasn’t one of the arguments for Brexit about being able to tailor policy to suit our needs rather than having to fall in line behind a common policy decided in Brussels? If there is one policy area which needs to be changed to meet local needs rather better, it is surely the Common Agricultural Policy; and specifically, the way in which the largest subsidies go to those who least need them, whilst those who really do need them are barely surviving.Perhaps, even more radically, it’s time to look again at the whole principle of subsidising an entire industry. Many will throw their arms up in horror at the thought of an unsubsidised agricultural sector, but how have we got into a situation where an entire industry, and one which is so essential to us all, cannot survive without tax-funded subsidy?