The newly-elected minority Tory government can be advantageous to making the case for rural issues, the president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) said.
Ross Murray, leader of thelandowners group, brought the CLA’s Countryside Matters campaign to the Great Yorkshire Show. It calls on MPs to pledge their responsibility for rural issues.
Mr Murray said the campaign had been launched to fill a void in the public debate about the role of countryside in the national psyche and was a pitch to government, all politicians and the public.
Addresing the current political situation, the Wales-based landowner said: “The General Election has opened up lines of argument within the Conservative party and I think a minority government, in a way, plays to our strengths of the minority interest.
“The majority of Conservative Party MPs come from rural constituencies, so for the first time rural MPs are in the ascendence within the Conservatives. This is an opportunity for us, as an apolitical organisation to lobby the governing party and we will do so.
“I think the lobbies are going to be fascinating in the months and years ahead. The whips will be very attentive to the back bench MPs and all of your rural MPs in the North here will be badgered by the likes of us, and we will do so in our members’ interest.”
Mr Murray said Brexit was at a “very interesting” stage, as he identified the trade argument as a critical one for agriculture and how the CLA’s European counterparts also do not want trade barriers in the form of tariffs for the agri-food trade.
“It is essential that the Government tries to establish, even if on a transitional basis to start with, some sort of trading relationship with open borders and customs arrangements that mean there is no glitch in the transfer of goods across borders and that there is no tariffs - tariffs are the enemy here,” he said.
“We have got to make the case for payment for public goods so that farmers are actually rewarded for doing the work they are doing.”
Another pressing issue, he said, was the industry’s “bleeding” seasonal workforce as numbers of foreign workers have dropped since the Brexit vote.