Wales 'lacks capacity' for post-Brexit farming policy, says Welsh Tory leader

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies
Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies

Wales doesn't have the capacity nor did it have any pre-planning for its agriculture policy post-Brexit, according to Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies.

Mr Davies, who owns a farm in the Vale of Glamorgan and campaigned to leave, said there was 'deep concern' when speaking to the BBC at the Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd, Powys.

"There is a real issue around capacity in Welsh Government to reach for the challenge ahead and actually look at the opportunities that are opening up before us.

"At the moment I don't think that capacity exists and I don't think there was any pre-planning for the outcome of the referendum.

"We've heard on the show field today the lacklustre response to Bovine TB. As we can all look at the headlines about Brexit, there are the day to day challenges that the rural economy and agriculture faces.

"I see no impetus coming from government at the moment to address those day to day issues, leave alone the big headline issue of Brexit.

"I think it's deeply concerning that we had a priorities for government statement five days before the Royal Welsh and not one mention of agriculture or the rural economy."

But Rural Affairs Secretary Lesley Griffiths said there was a real opportunity to 'work together' and adopt a 'made-in-Wales' approach for the future of the industry.

With farming fully devolved, Ms Griffiths said it was a chance to create policies and regulations "tailor made for Wales' unique needs".

Ms Griffiths will hold a roundtable meeting with representatives of Wales' rural affairs and environment sector to discuss the implications of Britain's impending withdrawal from the EU.

"I can't see how there wouldn't be a subsidy scheme, so while it's very uncertain, there are things that will have to happen.

'Uncertainty' for the farming sector

First Minister Carwyn Jones, who met with agricultural figures in Cardiff earlier in the month, said there was 'no doubt' Britain's decision to leave the EU had caused uncertainty for the sector.

"Indeed, out of all areas of Welsh government business, environment and rural affairs are those most closely linked to the EU," Mr Jones said.

"That is why, since the referendum result, meeting key figures within these sectors has been one of my top priorities.

"Today is the start of a long, uncertain journey and I will not make any promises that I will have all the answers.

"What assurance I can give however is that I will work tirelessly to seek guarantees from the UK Government that Wales will not be financially worse off as a result of the UK leaving the EU.

"We will be in listening mode today. Nothing will be off the table and I will ensure the views raised will be at the very forefront of my mind when I am negotiating with the UK Government over the timing and terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU."

CLA Cymru director Rebecca Williams said the first priority should be "to establish a world-leading agricultural policy" and to ensure the sector played the "appropriate leading role in the critical trade negotiations that lie ahead".

She said: "We are looking for reassurances that maintaining and nurturing existing markets and opening new opportunities for agriculture will be government priorities."