Leaked emails reveal government advisor said farming was unimportant to future success of the country

A top government advisor has said the UK does not need an agricultural sector in order to be successful, according to leaked emails.

Dr Tim Leunig, who advises the treasury on economics, said the food and farming sector was “not critically important” to the country’s economy, according to reports in the Mail on Sunday.

He reportedly argued in emails sent to the National Food Strategy, the Government’s review of the British food system, that the UK could follow the model of Singapore, which imports its food and is “rich without having its own agricultural sector.”

The government said in a statement the comments “are not in line with government policy”. 

The leaks come as the UK farming sector is making the case for UK food standards to be protected in any future trade deals. 

Last weekend, Defra secretary of state George Eustice failed to rule out chlorinated chicken forming part of a trade deal with the US, prompting concern from trade bodies such as the British Poultry Council and National Farmers’ Union.

Eustice said that although there were no plans to change the rules around chlorinated chicken, technology was moving fast and it was now more common for US producers to use lactic washes. “There is room for sensible discussion,” as part of a trade deal on this, he said.

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