PROPOSED legislation to continue subsidies to farmers in the months after Brexit will "give them that certainty" as the UK leaves the European Union, Defra minister George Eustice has said.

Speaking during the Commons committee stage debate of the Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Bill, he said: "This clause provides the legal basis for the Government and devolved administrations to make payments to farmers under the direct payments scheme for 2020.

"The clause is needed because of the effect of article 37 of the Withdrawal Agreement which results in the EU legislation governing the 2020 Common Agricultural Policy schemes no longer applying in the UK on exit day."

He added: "It will absolutely give them that certainty in that this Bill is essential for us to be able to give farmers their direct payments, those area-based payments in December and without this direct payment regulation coming across into UK law, we would be unable to do that."

Lib Dem former party leader Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) urged a delay as he said 85 per cent of livestock farm incomes come through basic payments.

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He said: "Of course the 12-month stay of execution if you like is something which will be welcomed by many of my farmers. However, the danger is from January next year he is planning to phase out BPS (basic payment scheme), starting next January, with no certainty of a replacement until 2028.

"Does he not worry that we will lose many livestock farmers during that seven-year transition and he should therefore delay the phasing out of BPS?"

Responding, Mr Eustice said there was a need to strike a new course "sensitively and need to ensure that agriculture remains profitable".

He added: "We want a vibrant, profitable agricultural industry, that is why the future Agriculture Bill also makes provision for payments to improve productivity, and it's why it sets quite a long transition period of seven years to gradually phase out the old legacy scheme."

Shadow environment minister Daniel Zeichner said Labour supports the Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Bill as "there is a clear funding gap between the ending of direct payments under the CAP and the Government's considerably delayed Agriculture Bill".

Mr Zeichner continued: "But we do have a number of continuing concerns about this particular piece of legislation because we do think it is very rushed to make up for the fact that the Government has of course lost the last 14 months in delays and wranglings and has reintroduced the Agriculture Bill just days before we leave the European Union."

He added: "These amendments are offered in a constructive spirit. We very much want the new Agriculture Bill to work to incentivise a whole range of public goods in return for public money, but the urgency and the need for this change in our farm payment system cannot come at the expense of unnecessary power grabs by ministers."

Mr Zeichner said that Labour is "simply not convinced that everything will be in place for the new farming payments system by the end of the year" and that "there's a real danger of continuing uncertainty for farmers."

He added: "It's imperative that if we do see delays in production of this new payment system there is a continuation mechanism in place in the current Bill."