British farmers and food businesses have the opportunity to thrive outside of the European Union, according to the new Environment Secretary.
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, Andrea Leadsom said she was convinced British farmers, food producers and fishermen “have an even brighter future” outside the EU and were well placed to benefit from the Government’s push to promote British food and drink abroad.
Leadsom used her speech to set out the government’s priorities for the sector including trebling the number of apprenticeships in food and farming and investing in science and technology to boost farmers’ productivity and sharpen their competitive edge.
She also reaffirmed commitments to offer the same level of agricultural support to farmers until 2020 and to honour all environmental agreements signed before the Autumn Statement for their lifetime.
Leadsom said that connecting people with nature and developing a long-term plan for the environment were central to the Conservatives’ ambition. She highlighted the 5p charge on plastic bags that will see six billion fewer bags in circulation this year as an example of a policy success, and pledged that in the coming weeks the government would be taking steps to ban the use of microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products.
At the heart of Leadsom’s vision for food and farming is a dynamic export market, which she noted was worth more than £18bn in 2015. Following Brexit Britain had a “superb opportunity” to establish new trading relationships right across the globe, she told delegates.
Responding to the speech, the Food and Drink Federation said the Secretary of State’s confidence in the food sector and optimism for the future were “heartening” and urged the Government to recognise the strategic importance of the industry in EU exit negotiations.