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Think-tank calls for end to subsidies

The UK should end subsidies for food production after Brexit and instead pay farmers for delivering environmental services, according to a leading think-tank.

In a new report titled Farming Tomorrow, Policy Exchange also called on the government to unilaterally phase out tariffs as part of efforts to unlock new trade deals, help developing countries and deliver cheaper food for British consumers.

The think-tank said the government had a once in a generation chance to reform Britain’s environmental policy and approach to farming after Brexit.

It called on policy makers to replace the Common Agricultural Policy with a new British Agricultural Policy which focuses on payments for public goods, such as biodiversity and flood defence, and phases out production subsidies and income support by 2025.

It also called for the Food Standards Agency to be given new powers to collate, commission, and review scientific evidence on food safety and animal welfare.

The report argues that seeking self-sufficiency in food should not be a goal of agricultural policy, stating that achieving full autonomy in food production would be “enormously expensive”.

“The starting point for policy reform must be the consumer,” said Policy Exchange’s director of research, Warwick Lightfoot. “The EU’s historic reluctance to open up trade in food products has repeatedly stymied trade deals and led to higher prices for consumers and a distorted farming industry. The UK can now lead the world in cutting tariffs and being a champion of free trade in agriculture.”