At the time of writing (October 2017) there is a temptation to be over-influenced by political statements and sentiment as to what may or may not happen after 2019. Those that are aware of past changes in agricultural support, which of course has been around nearly 350 years since the English Corn Laws, 300 years before we joined the EU, know the disinterest in entitlements for 2018 may be premature, as the UK’s history of supporting agriculture, it is the author’s opinion that leaving the EU will not automatically mean support will be removed overnight.

As the average farmer in the UK knows, being on average of an age to remember, it is not what the politicians say before a new subsidy scheme is introduced, but how the bureaucrats interpret it and deal with it in its application. This does not mean that DEFRA will get it right, or that it will work, but it is the detail that they provide that can make all the difference. Take for instance the creation of the Active Farmer Test, which in effect is left without any teeth (as expected, due to how impractical it would have been to have applied) at the very last moment in the small print, with the 36 ha rule. In assessing the impact of any new subsidy scheme, it is only when the detail is available, or the rules tested, that anyone will know how it will practically work and the ultimate impact it will have.

It is therefore certainly too early to lose interest in the ownership of entitlements, as so far it remains the case that those that “have” at the end of one scheme will be given more in the next than those that don’t, who may be given less or nothing.  Therefore the “motto” is “watch the bureaucrats and not the politicians”, as predicting how things will work out is as much based on how the bureaucrats have developed schemes and operated them in the past as it is on what politicians do or don’t say.

Having “written the book” on UK BPS entitlements, the User Guide is still available, and provides the historic background and current thinking as to how UK governments have dealt with supporting agriculture since the Corn Laws in the 1670s, nearly 350 years ago.