Pressed on the fact that the UK was set to fail to deliver on the 2015 Tory manifesto pledge to plant 11 more trees by 2020, the former environment secretary said: “And that’s why we need to leave the EU.”
He added: “Inside the European Union we’re trapped in the Common Agricultural Policy. It’s one of the big benefits of leaving the European Union, and it will allow us to meet these tree-planting targets which will ensure that we deal with the climate crisis that we face.”
The EU has never stopped member states planting trees. The Common Agricultural Policy provides funds for farmers to plant trees, but leaves it to member states to decide their own forestry policies and how to fund them. In the UK, forestry policy is devolved. In the 2014-2020 EU funding round, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each chose to use EU funding to plant trees. England did not. In the year to March 2019, Scotland planted eight times more trees than England.
Gove, the environment secretary under Theresa May, was in a position to know the EU’s policy on tree-planting. His claim was a lie.