Government adviser criticised for calling farming industry 'unimportant' in leaked emails

Dr Tim Leunig, an economic adviser to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, said agriculture was 'not critically important'. (Getty)

A government adviser has been heavily criticised for claiming Britain’s farming industry is “not important” in a series of leaked emails.

Messages seen by the Mail on Sunday revealed Dr Tim Leunig, an economic adviser to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, described the food sector as “not critically important” to the country’s economy.

He also claimed that agriculture and fisheries “certainly isn’t”.

Dr Leunig suggested Britain could follow Singapore in not needing a farming industry, adding that the Asian nation is “rich without having its own agricultural sector”.

NFU President Minette Batters blasted the adviser over the email. (Getty)

Shortly after details of the exchanges were published, Dr Leunig was branded “completely out of touch” by National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Minette Batters.

Ms Batters told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “Singapore has 5 million people, and doesn’t have any farmed landscape so it actually has to import all its food.

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“Here 75% of Britain is a farmed landscape, we have a fantastic maritime climate in which to produce our food, and we have 60 million-plus people here to feed so there’s a sort of moral imperative, if you like, for us to be able to produce food in this country.

“So absolutely we need our farmers and we’re the bedrock of the largest manufacturing sector providing all those raw ingredients and currently at 60% self-sufficiency.”

“We have to see this as an opportunity and comparisons with Singapore are just completely out of touch with where this country is.”

The Government distanced itself from the comments made by the Treasury adviser although the published opinions are likely to propel industry fears that ministers could discard safeguards for farmers and fishermen in the forthcoming post-Brexit trade talks with the US and the European Union.

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A spokesman said: “We have made clear the comments are not in line with Government policy.”

Sources claimed that the remarks were made in personal emails and that Dr Leunig was not speaking in his Treasury role.

Treasury adviser and academic Dr Leunig is said to be close to Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s chief adviser in Downing Street.