Belfast Telegraph

Brexit 'a superb opportunity' for British agriculture

Leaving the European Union is a "superb opportunity" for Britain to forge new trading relationships around the world that could boost the UK's farming exports, the Environment Secretary has said.

Andrea Leadsom, who helped spearhead the Brexit campaign, said Britain must "seize the opportunities" that lie outside the EU.

She reiterated the Government's commitment to replace EU subsidies for farmers until 2020 as she insisted British agriculture has much to gain in a post Brexit Britain.

Speaking at the Conservative Party's annual conference in Birmingham, Mrs Leadsom said: "Thanks to that momentous day in June, there is no doubt we now have a superb opportunity to establish new trading relationships right across the globe.

"It is a chance to reassert ourselves as the great, outward-looking, trading nation we've always been. The great nation of exporters. The great nation of Britain."

Mrs Leadsom - the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) - also sought to reassure farmers that the financial support they have received from the EU will not be cut off when Britain exits the Union.

Mrs Leadsom said: "It's really important that we have been able to confirm the same level of agricultural support until 2020.

"And that we'll honour all environmental agreements signed before the Autumn Statement for their lifetime, even if they run beyond our departure from the EU.

"Our farmers, fishermen and food producers have a proud heritage.

"I am convinced that outside the EU, they have an even brighter future."

And in her first conference speech since her ill-fated attempt to run for Tory leader, she poked fun at the brevity of her campaign and Labour's bruising leadership contest.

She said: "In contrast to what Labour's up to, we're getting on with the job, putting the country first.

"I don't know about you, but it seemed to me their leadership election dragged on far too long. If only they'd come to me for advice on how to keep it short."

But her jovial remarks were quickly seized upon by the Liberal Democrats.

Lib Dem environment spokeswoman Kate Parminter said: "I cannot believe that Andrea Leadsom was nearly our prime minister.

"On a day that meat was produced from British pigs has been shown to be infected with a livestock strain of MRSA, the Defra Secretary said nothing about it.

"We still have no idea what Brexit will mean for farmers. We have no promise of long-term funding for farmers and no conversation started about how farmers can be rewarded for delivering public goods."