It was an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to address the Oxford Farming Conference earlier this week – the leading international conference held in the UK for farming and agribusiness – and to talk about the positive future I see for British farmers once we leave the European Union.
Right now, the whole of our food chain, from farm to fork, adds £110 billion to our economy each year. Food and drink is already the UK’s largest manufacturing sector – adding more value to our economy than the car and aerospace industries combined. Our exports are increasing; non-EU dairy exports are up 91%; wheat exports are up 80%; and, a real triumph, British lamb was voted product of the year in France last year! And our core-strength is our world-leading position in animal welfare, food safety and food traceability.
I have no doubt that our best days as a food and farming nation lie ahead of us: in leaving the EU, we’ve been handed a once in a generation opportunity to design, from first principles, an agricultural system that works for us. We can go even further to care for our stunning habitats and landscapes, and we can export more of our world-class food and drink.
I am also clear that too much of time and money has been wasted by farmers on keeping up and complying with EU red tape. I will be looking at scrapping the rules that hold us back, and focusing instead on what works best for the UK. No more 6 foot EU billboards littering the landscape. No more existential debates to determine what counts as a bush, a hedge, or a tree. And no more, ridiculous, bureaucratic three-crop rule!
I am committed to securing the best possible deal for British farmers as we leave the EU.
You can read the full transcript of my speech here, or watch the video below.