CLA blog: An end of year message for members

20 December 2019

CLA President Mark Bridgeman provides an end of year message for members covering what plans the CLA has for 2020 

After a year of frustration and stagnation with agricultural policy, 2020 is going to be a very busy year for the CLA, following the decisive election result. The Agriculture Bill has been on hold for the last year, as Parliament was gridlocked in Brexit disagreement. The Environment Bill received its first reading and was then pulled once the election was called. These two key pieces of legislation will come back to Parliament in the New Year.  As well as preparing the sector for Brexit, there will also be a focus on Climate Change. The UK will be hosting COP26, the major Global Climate Summit, in Glasgow in mid-November. Having been the first major economy to make ‘net zero’ a legal obligation, there will be a lot of pressure on the UK government to show they are starting to act.

We face challenges around property rights with the new Government committed to removing Section 21 notices, which allow landlords to regain possession of Assured Shorthold Tenancies without lengthy court procedures. The CLA has already made a robust case for the preservation of a landlord’s right to regain their property in a timely and efficient way. We will continue to lobby government to mitigate the unintended consequences and detrimental impact this could have in rural areas on the provision of rental housing stock, particularly for employees.

On Tuesday I had a meeting with the Secretary of State for DEFRA, Theresa Villiers, on her second day back in post and following the first new Cabinet meeting. She was keen to point out that the Conservative manifesto has committed to maintaining funding into the agricultural sector for the duration of this Parliament, the much talked about £3.2bn that currently comes into the UK from the CAP. This is very important as we start the transition away from BPS. She said that the Agriculture Bill will come back in broadly the same format as presented to Parliament last year, with the same broad thrust. However, my reading of her comments is that there may be one of two changes or additions which we need to watch out for.

She said she would speak more about the transition process and the new ELMS schemes in the next few months. We have suggested that the start of the transition needs to be delayed to match the delay in the Agriculture Bill. Government is keen to maintain the current timeframe but may consider changing the profile of the changes.

While our industry is pushing for tariff-free trade with the EU, and that is what Government say they want, they also want a looser regulatory relationship with the EU to allow divergence and that is where the challenge for 2020 will be. Legally speaking, it is likely we will leave the EU in January – but economically the risk of there being no Free Trade Agreement remains a threat, but also a bargaining chip for the UK Government.

The Secretary of State highlighted the Government’s commitments to maintaining the highest standards of food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection in any future trade deals. The maintenance of standards and not undercutting UK food producers will be crucial for our sector and remain a key focus of our lobbying work with Government.

Happy Christmas to you all and I look forward to seeing many of you at our events in 2020.