The work of the Countryside Alliance was praised during a debate in Parliament on the rural economy in Wales on Tuesday (28 November).
The debate was secured by Ben Lake, MP for Ceredigion, which he described as part of the “Welsh midlands” and took place in Westminster Hall in the House of Commons. The hour-long debate brought together 10 MPs from every part of Wales, including Countryside Alliance Chairman, Simon Hart, MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire. The wide ranging debate included calls for greater investment in broadband and mobile connectivity, support for rural tourism through a reduction in VAT, and recognition of the importance of farming to Wales and the need to ensure farmers were listened to in the Brexit process.
The Countryside Alliance has produced a Brexit policy document setting out the priorities for the rural economy and rural communities as we leave the EU, and sent out a briefing note to all MPs from Wales ahead of this debate highlighting the main areas of importance to Wales. The briefing note was used by a number of MPs and quoted by Susan Elan Jones, MP for Clwyd South, who said “the points that the Countryside Alliance has made on the issue are superb”.
Commenting on the briefing note, Ms Jones said “It notes, for instance, that Wales exported £12.3 billion worth of goods outside the UK in 2015, of which 67% went to the European Union. It makes the point that it is vital that the UK Government seek to maintain tariff-free access to EU markets for food and agricultural produce”. We have also made this point in written evidence to the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Select Committee which is holding an inquiry into Brexit and agriculture in Wales.
Responding for the Government, Wales Office Minister, Guto Bebb MP, said “We understand the importance of the agricultural sector for Ceredigion and most of rural Wales, including Powys. The Government have gone a long way in trying to reassure the sector”. On future support payments, he said “I accept the importance of ensuring that our share of future agricultural funding is based on the historical trend, rather than a Barnett-based system”.
The Countryside Alliance will continue to champion our Brexit policies in Parliament in an attempt to secure the best possible deal for the countryside outside of the EU.