UK Independence Party Leader Nigel Farage writes: I was born in Kent, so the way I look at the British countryside is not the way politicians from Notting Hill or North London look at it. I fish and I shoot. Apparently I’m the only party leader who owns his own waders. I’d guess I am the only party leader who knows why the EU demand to ban lead shot is a thoroughly bad idea.
I don’t farm, but I can rely for policy advice from UKIP’s agricultural spokesman, Stuart Agnew MEP, who farms 35,000 free-range layers and lambs at least 300 ewes outdoors.
We and the rest of our party know that the British countryside must not be some playground for Green party ideology, nor just a weekend retreat for people who don’t have time to get to Tuscany. The countryside is farming, hunting, fishing, shooting, conservation, and relentless hard work by every man and woman trying to make a living in any of it. We also know that their hard work is made far worse by over-regulation and interference by the European Union.
Take the issue of pesticides. The EU now wants to force new registration of all pesticides. This is going to cost a fortune, so chemical companies will stop producing some materials that have been proven safe over years of use, but which may be of limited use. Horticulture will be particularly hit.
Yes, there is a problem with pesticides in eastern European countries. But not in Britain. Every single pesticide produced here, designed here, has already gone through a stringent process. But the EU makes rules based on politics, not science. They say: “We don’t care. We are going to bring you all — the UK and the eastern European countries — down to the same level. You are going to have to re-register all pesticides, whatever the cost.”
That’s typical of the damage the EU is doing to British agriculture. And that is one of the many reasons UKIP wants to take Britain out of the EU.
British farmers realise how damaging the EU is to agriculture. But when I talk to them, some say: “Yes, we agree with you on so much, but if we leave the EU we are going to lose our subsidies, and our subsidies are bigger than our profits, so we can’t possibly support you at the election.”
I want them to know that, once the UK regains its independence from the EU, UKIP will support agriculture through a modified version of the single farm payment scheme. It will be £80 an acre on the lowland consolidated payment. Farmers will only need to qualify for this by adhering to the rules of the ELS scheme as they were in 2013. A grassland farmer will automatically comply. This will be no modulation, no greening, no set aside and crucially no interference in cropping.
The Countryside Alliance* and Vote-OK did not support UKIP at the last general election. They backed Cameron, largely because he made a big promise: “Vote for me and I’ll give you a free vote in the House of Commons to overturn the hunting ban.” And what has Cameron done in the last five years? Nothing. It was a promise he never intended to keep.
Perhaps that is one of the reasons why there have been increasing numbers of rural people and field sports people who have started voting UKIP in local elections, by-elections and in the European elections. They understand we are on their side.
My party believes that the decision to reinstate hunting should be a decision made by each county. If Leicestershire hunt supporters gather enough signatures for a county referendum, and win the vote, they can get back hunting in Leicestershire. (And if you tell me that hounds do not respect county boundaries, I say it is the whipper-in’s job to make sure they do.)
UKIP is allied with the Countryside Alliance in so much: on food labelling, on the value of shooting to the countryside economy — and the importance of resisting new EU moves to shift more control to Brussels of gun ownership regulations. We oppose the HS2 project. We want to give back control over planning to local authorities. We want the vast new housing demands for city workers to be met by building on brown field sites, not on green field sites in the countryside.
UKIP will abolish the export of live animals for slaughter. We are the only party whose policies can deliver that, because the EU says a ban would interfere with their rules on trade.
(*Note: the Countryside Alliance is apolitical and is not aligned.)