‘Disastrous’ EU scheme banished as ‘radical’ Brexit change saves English wildlife

Gillian Keegan shuts down Susanna Reid's Brexit swipe

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Alex Thomson, Channel 4 News Chief Correspondent, believes the “long-needed move” is a “genuine Brexit opportunity – if delivered”. The journalist said the Government plan – paying farmers to protect the country’s cherished wildlife – is “fantastic” in principle.

Before the UK left the EU, British farmers were paid around £3 billion annually under the bloc’s common agricultural policy – with cash allocated based on the amount of land they farmed.

Mr Thomson suggests that, in reality, it meant farmers were paid “to destroy our wildlife”.

Under a rewilding scheme, farmers will be encouraged to take measures to restore nature, nurture the soil, improve air and water quality, and provide habitats for wildlife.

In return, they will receive taxpayer-funded support under a system of environmental land management contracts, or ELMs.

Currently, bids are being submitted for 10 to 15 pilot projects which will each cover at least 500 hectares.

The pilots could involve full rewilding or other forms of management that focus on species recovery and wildlife habitats.

Rare fauna such as sand lizards, water voles and curlews will be targeted, with the aim of improving the status of about half of the most threatened species in England.

Responding to the news, Mr Thomson tweeted: “It’s official – today rewilding goes mainstream.

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“The Government is burying the disastrous EU farming subsidies which paid English farmers to destroy our wildlife – instead of payments for wildlife protection.

“On paper a radical and long-needed move.

“So the principles are fantastic but we need action now and detail (all sides agree) is lacking here.

“That said the concepts are, frankly, fantastic and reward the many farmers already doing this.”

He added: “Expect rewilding … hedgerow, wetland, peat bog restoration… natural flood management: ‘public good’.

“Most significant reordering of English farming in half a century and a genuine Brexit opportunity – if delivered.”

George Eustice, the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, said it aims for food production to run alongside wildlife and nature protection.

In a speech at the Oxford Farming Conference later today, he is expected to say: “We want to see profitable farm businesses producing nutritious food and underpinning a growing rural economy, where nature is recovering and people have better access to it.

“Through our new schemes, we are going to work with farmers and land managers to halt the decline in species, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, increase woodland, improve water and air quality and create more space for nature.”

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