Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has said that although political agreement has now been reached regarding the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) the “devil is in the detail”. Mr Nicholson made the comments after final negotiations between the Parliament, Council and Commission concluded in Brussels today (Wednesday). The much anticipated agreement came after an intense week of negotiations which included Monday’s Agriculture Council in Luxembourg. Mr Nicholson has been an integral part of the Parliament’s negotiating team throughout the reform process.
Speaking from Brussels Jim said: “A political deal has been agreed on the future of the CAP, however given that issues such as capping, external convergence and co-financing are bundled up with the on-going budget negotiations this is in effect an interim, or provisional deal. What was billed as the final showdown concluded relatively quickly and with little fanfare as elements in the three institutions raced to seal the deal.”
Some of the issues finalised in Brussels related to greening, coupling and the reclassification of LFAs.
Jim continued: “In terms of the four CAP files I am broadly content with the outcome of Rural Development and Financing, yet would have many concerns regarding Direct Payments - which is particularly important as the SFP stems from this - and the single CMO file which looks set to have more red tape than ever.
I have sought to use my involvement at the coal face of negotiations to help ensure a more workable package for Northern Ireland’s farmers and some progress has been made in key areas. For example the Commission’s original greening proposals were totally unworkable, indeed I was glad to be able to emphasise this directly to the Commissioner when I hosted his visit to Northern Ireland last year. We have therefore worked to achieve more practical measures which recognise the environmental benefits of Northern Ireland’s largely grass based farms.
We have also worked to include much needed regional flexibility to allow local decision making that suits our needs on issues including the transition to a flat rate payment.”
Jim concluded: “This reform process has been something of a marathon and although a political deal has now been done given the complexity of the package the devil is in the detail.”