CAP health check is a missed opportunity

MEPs to water down an already timid proposal, Sir Robert Atkins warns

The EU’s ‘health check’ of the Common Agricultural Policy has been a missed opportunity, Sir Robert Atkins MEP, has said.

The proposals put forward represent the first time the CAP has been updated since the reforms of 2003. While the health check was never meant to be a root and branch reform, Sir Robert has argued that it should have fully broken the link between amounts produced and subsidies received, moved a greater proportion of subsidy uniformly towards rural development schemes, and prepared the ground for a liberalised milk market.

Sir Robert has criticised the British government for failing to engage in the negotiations on the Health Check, which has enabled several European governments to stall reform. In May, the British Chancellor wrote to finance ministers urging reform of the CAP, yet British ministers have failed to live up to the rhetoric, even missing the informal council meeting in Slovenia in which it was discussed. CAP reform was one of the key stipulations under which Tony Blair gave away a large portion of Britain’s rebate, yet his government has received very little change in return.

Sir Robert said:

“The reforms put forward are welcome, but we have missed an opportunity to go further. The Common Agricultural Policy does have a role to play in 21st century farming, but it must be a fundamentally different policy to that of a decade ago.

“The CAP should act to ensure there is a level playing field for farmers, and to ensure the viability and sustainability of rural areas and the environment. The introduction of a market-based approach to food production will be positive for our farmers and for consumers in the long-term, and we must not seek to turn the clock back to the old discredited system.

“Tony Blair gave away seven billion pounds in exchange for budgetary reform, including the CAP. He was naive to give it away in the first place, but thanks to the idleness of Labour ministers, we have received very little change for our sacrifice.”

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