Direct Payments to Farmers Bill Introduced

The Direct Payments to Farmers Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on 9th January 2020. The Bill was introduced to provide certainty and continuity for farmers across all four corners of the UK and to give government powers to administer direct payments to farmers for 2020.

The Direct Payments Regulation establishes rules for direct payments to farmers under support schemes and is the principal legislation governing Direct Payments in the EU. The Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and EU provides that the Direct Payments Regulation shall not apply in the UK for the claim year 2020. The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill (WAB) has passed through the House of Commons and is being considered by the House of Lords and seems likely to be passed. If WAB is enacted by exit day, Article 137 will apply and the law enabling the Direct Payments scheme to continue and payments to be made for the 2020 claim year will have no force in UK law from exit day. If the WAB is not enacted by exit day, the government cannot ratify the withdrawal agreement, and the UK will leave the EU with no deal.

The Direct Payments to Farmers Bill incorporates EU legislation governing Direct Payments to farmers into domestic law and it will allow the Direct Payments scheme to continue for the whole claim year of 2020. If enacted, the Bill will be the vehicle to allow the money pledged to farmers by the Treasury for 2020 to be made.

Looking more specifically at provisions of the Bill, it includes Powers for the Secretary of State or relevant devolved administration to make regulations to prevent, remedy or mitigate any failure of retained EU law governing the support schemes under the Direct Payments Regulation. Significantly, the Bill includes the power for the Secretary of State to have regard to the recommendations contained in the Bew Review and increase the maximum ceiling for 2020 Direct Payments. This would allow the greater share of “convergence funding” agreed to be allocated to Scotland and Wales to be made within the legislative framework.

The majority of the provisions are all due to come into force on the day the Bill receives Royal Assent, certain exceptions come into force on exit day.

For further information on Agricultural Law contact Frank Smith & Co Solicitors on 01242 801748 or www.franksmithandco.com

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