Countryside Alliance Political Relations Manager, James Somerville-Meikle, travelled back to his home county of Kent to address the Canterbury Farmers Club on the importance of the snap General Election for rural communities. The talk, on Monday 24 April, was an opportunity to discuss the rural issues which will need to be debated during the election campaign, and addressed during the next Parliament.

James provided the framework for the discussion by describing this as “the most important election in living memory for the countryside”. He set out the two main challenges for the next Government; to negotiate our exit from the EU in a way that will protect the interests of rural communities, and establish new domestic policy in crucial areas such as agriculture and the environment.

James stressed that this is the first time in over 40 years that many of these issues have been debated in Westminster as previously they were decided by the EU and the decision to call an early election has caught many policy makers by surprise. He went on to say that “the decisions made by the next Government will determine the future of the countryside, not just for the next 4 or 5 years of the next Parliament, but for a generation and beyond.”

The discussion afterwards focused on the challenges of seeking to protect and promote British farmers and producers in new trade deals with the EU and further afield, the nature of a new agricultural policy, and the challenge of addressing other rural issues such as crime and affordable housing. James stressed that results will only be achieved if the Government recognises the importance of the food and farming sector which contributes £108 billion to UK economy every year, provides public goods which millions of people enjoy, and sustains many of our rural communities.

The Countryside Alliance will be working hard to promote the importance of food and farming during the election campaign, and the next Parliament.

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