Britain’s troubled relationship with EU agricultural subsidies

LONDON: The EU’s Common Agriculture Policy subsidy system came under fire this year for dishing out cash to one of the wealthiest men in Britain; a Saudi prince; and the Swedish billionaire majority owner of H&M.
Greenpeace UK’s criticised the CAP subsidies as a “broken system which sends public subsidies into billionaires’ bank accounts” and called for the British government to replace it with a system targeted to help struggling farmers when Britain forges its post-EU agricultural policy.
The environmental non-governmental organisation conducted an analysis of the top 100 recipients of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy(CAP) subsidy scheme, which calculates how much funding to pay out based on the area of land owned.
With Brexit looming, there are worries that the British agricultural sector will suffer from the loss of EU subsidies. The British government has only promised to make up the shortfall until 2020.
But records showed that 16 of the businesses out of the 100 that received the biggest cash injection from the EU fund were on the Sunday Times Rich List, an annual rundown of the
1,000 wealthiest people or families in Britain.
One in five recipients is from British aristocratic families, most notably the late duke of Westminster, who was one of the wealthiest men in the country.
Juddmonte Farms, an international racehorse-breeding operation run by Prince Khalid Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, was given £406,826 ($506,872) in CAP subsidies in 2015. The billionaire prince’s business falls under the
scheme covering Britain, as it is owned through an offshore company based on the island of Guernsey.
Ramsbury Estates, which manages 19,000 acres of land in southern England and also features in the top 100, is owned by Carl Stefan Erling Persson, heir to the H&M fashion empire.
Hannah Martin from Greenpeace UK’s Brexit Response Team said that the departure from the EU was an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past.
“It’s clear that there cannot be a business-as-usual approach to farm subsidies after we leave the EU,” Martin said.
“The British government has never had a better opportunity to reshape our farming sector for the common good.
“We should be using any subsidies to improve the lot of farmers who really need our support and champion landowners who promote
wildlife and biodiversity, use their land to help reduce flooding in their area and provide carbon storage to tackle climate change.” — DPA