Greening the Common Agricultural Policy - Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Contents

4  Defra's Approach

86.  In our reports on the Common Agricultural Policy after 2013 and the Outcome of the Farming Regulation Task Force we emphasised the need for the UK Government to engage positively with Europe. In its response to our Outcome of the Farming Regulation Task Force report the Government said:

Our EU Negotiations Guidance emphasises the need to engage early with the Commission, identify allies and influence effectively in European Institutions, including the European Parliament.

87.  The Government has reported that there was "no unconditional support" for the Commission's package of reforms among Member States,[200] and the Secretary of State told us that in the Council there was "a real lack of consensus about what greening looks like".[201] That lack of consensus is unsurprising given the lack detail in the Commission's proposals and the differential impact of the proposals across Member States. The Secretary of State told us that our allies on 'greening' were "only just beginning to emerge"; although she did refer to several countries sharing the UK's views on the importance of Pillar 2 schemes.[202] She confirmed that the department's current assessment of Member States intentions on 'greening' put the UK " the largest group".[203]

88.  In the oral evidence session we had lengthy exchanges with the Secretary of State on Defra's approach to the negotiations and the department's efforts to foster allies across the EU.[204] She argued that it was difficult to achieve a great deal during the formal meetings and emphasised that she was holding informal bilateral meetings to build alliances.[205] She told us that:

In bilateral meetings with France, Spain or Italy we have been testing out the reactions of the different member states to the Commission's proposals. The straight answer is it is quite difficult at this stage because they, like us, are at an early stage of negotiations without an absolutely firm view.[206]

She emphasised that the department and Ministers had also been at pains to engage with the European Parliament.[207]

89.  As we have noted in previous reports, it is critical that Defra engage proactively with the Commission, other Member States and the European Parliament. In order to achieve the necessary level of engagement Defra must ensure that its EU-facing policy teams are properly staffed, trained and resourced. In response to this report we recommend that the department set out how it has ensured that it is bringing the appropriate resources to bear on Europe; the staffing of EU negotiating teams; how they have altered over the past two years and the impact of the department's re-organisation on those teams.

200   HC Deb, 7 Nov 2011, col 4WS Back

201   Q 145 Back

202   Q 145 Back

203   Qa 165-166 Back

204   Qq 145-166 Back

205   Q 145 Back

206   Q 154 Back

207   Qq 154, 161 Back

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 1 June 2012