Agriculture and the associated areas of environment and planning are devolved matters. Each of the devolved regions within the UK have implemented and enforced EU law and policy in these areas in a distinct way, appropriate to their region’s needs and requirements.
A balance must be struck going forward between maintaining cohesion and a level playing field across each region within the UK, ensure there are no internal barriers to trade so that the UK as a whole is best placed to sell its agricultural products in a global market and the flexibility required to ensure that law and policy is effective in consideration of a particular region’s economic, environmental and social matrix.
The agreement reached between the UK Government and the Welsh government on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will provide legal certainty and clarity as to how law and policy will be implemented in the 153 policy areas where power will be returning from the EU. This coupled with the publication of a related Inter Government Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding should assist in providing much needed transparency as to how the relationship will work going forward. It is however a concern that the Scottish Government has not reached a consensus with the UK Government on this nor has there been clarity provided as to the way forward for Northern Ireland on this point. If the UK proceeds with the EU Withdrawal Bill without agreement from the Scottish Government this will be a departure from the principles of the Sewell convention and sets a precedent going forward which we believe would be best avoided.
For the agreement to work, there must be formal recognition and practical implementation of the two way dialogue between the UK Government and the Welsh Government and this must be seen to be done as opposed to it being done behind closed doors. The UK Government must also, when establishing the common frameworks in these areas ensure that scope is provided for each region within the UK to adopt their own specific and targeted mechanisms to achieve the common objectives and principles one would hope would be found in the framework.
The temporary powers to be provided to the UK Government in 24 areas where a new UK framework and UK wide holistic approach is required focus heavily on rural and land based areas. It is important that significant dialogue and consultation takes place on the formulation of these frameworks so that the voice of Wales is heard in that framework.