Britain is leaving the European Union but not leaving Europe, a senior Conservative MEP told today's debate in Brussels on the UK's withdrawal agreement.

Anthea McIntyre, MEP for the West Midlands, said Conservatives should be proud of their achievements and their legacy as they leave the European Parliament.

She used her farewell speech to thank friends and colleagues from across all the political groups for their co-operation over many years.

Miss McIntyre said: "We have certainly not always agreed, but we have all worked for what we believe is in the best interests of the people we represent. My overwhelming feeling is of a job well done, though not always understood back home! 

"It is important that we leave on good terms, with a climate of friendly co-operation for productive talks on a trade deal ahead. I’m not saying it will be easy, both sides are already taking up some tough positions. But that is what negotiation is all about. 

"Just as it was with the withdrawal agreement, so it is in the interests of all of us to have a trade deal.

"I speak as the proud daughter of a Scottish soldier who landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-day. We are all Europeans. We are certainly leaving the institutions of the European Union – but we are not leaving Europe.

The dangers posed by African Swine Fever (ASF) to British pig farming were highlighted in the European Parliament by Conservative
Agriculture spokesman Anthea McIntyre.

Miss McIntyre, MEP for the West Midlands, used her last speech in the parliament’s Agriculture Committee to raise concerns over the spread
of the disease and how disastrous it would be to the British pig population if it spread to the UK.

She explained the enormous concern of pig farmers on the edge of the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, which is home to a large poulation of
wile boar.

She said: “Britain was scarred forever by the devastating outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001 when over 6 million cows and sheep were
killed. Farmers in my area are very aware of the potential dangers of an outbreak of ASF.”

She went on to describe the circumstances for a local farmer who breeds Middle White pigs. “These pigs are a very rare breed. In fact,
they are more rare than the giant panda! An outbreak of ASF could completely wipe out the Middle White breed.

“ASF can be brought in to a country through contaminated meat products, maybe in a sandwich, and it is then spread by wild boar. I
do not believe that the authorities are doing enough to control the wild boar population in the Forest of Dean.

“The importance of bio security is very well recognised, but it is just not possible for every farmer to protect their farms from the
encroachment of wild boar. The practicality of keeping wild boar out, as I know for myself, is just about impossible.”

The Committee was told that ASF only affects wild boar and domestic pigs and that it kills one hundred percent of infected animals.

Fears that Britain will stop addressing climate change seriously after Brexit are unfounded and unfair, a senior MEP says.

The assurance came from Anthea McIntyre MEP, Conservative environment spokesman, as the European Parliament's Environment Committee debated its response to the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement.

The West Midlands MEP said the UK remained a front runner in the area of climate action and much could be learnt from its regulatory practices as well as the EU's.

The UK began the world's first large scale application of emissions trading to greenhouse gases in 2002, significantly ahead of the EU ETS in 2005. And it had been an important driver for reforms of the EU ETS to establish a competitive carbon price.

She continued: "In June 2019, the UK became the first major economy in the world to adopt legislation to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

"And this law rests on firm foundations. UK emissions have been progressively falling since our Climate Change Act entered into force on 1st January 2008. In 2018, the UK’s emissions were 44 percent below 1990 levels, while our economy grew by two-thirds over the same period.

"As these accomplishments attest, the UK will continue to be a reliable and valued partner for mutual learning as both parties incentivise the roll-out of green technologies and put their economies on a path to decarbonisation.

"Looking to the future, I really hope that the EU will adopt a science-based, evidence-based approach to policy making. It is something I have championed for the eight years I have been an MEP and it has never been more important than it is today. 

"There is much good to be gained from new technologies such as GM and gene-editing in plant development and I really hope the EU will look at the evidence and support these methods of plant production. 

"This is something the UK will be free to pursue. So, instead of french farmers buying their GM animal feed from across the Atlantic, perhaps in future they will buy it from across the Channel."

Anthea McIntyre, Conservative employment spokesman in the European Parliament, today welcomed news that the National Living Wage (NLW) will rise to £8.72 an hour from April 1.

It is the biggest cash increase ever, boosting the NLW from the current value of £8.21.

She noted that in her constituency, the West Midlands, 272,000 people will benefit from the pay rise - 11.8 per cent of all workers across the region. 

Nearly 3 million people across the country will benefit from a pay rise of 6.2 per cent in April – an increase of £930 over the year for a full-time worker.

Miss McIntyre said: “This is exactly the kind of news people in the West Midlands and across Britain want to hear. I’m very proud to be part of a Conservative party that is delivering the higher-wage, lower-tax economy we all want to see.

“We’re backing hard work and aspiration – creating opportunity for hardworking people across the country. We are building a better Britain for everyone in this country, regardless of how they voted."

New rules on plant health, designed to stop diseases spreading or jumping borders, will become effective on Saturday.

The EU Regulation 2016/2031 on protective measures against plant pests was steered through the European Parliament by UK member Anthea McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands.

It became law in December 2016 and is directly applicable in all EU countries from December 14.

Miss McIntyre, Conservative spokesman on both agriculture and the environment, said: "Plant disease can have a devastating effect commercially, on biodiversity and the environment generally, so it was vital that we should make ourselves ourselves more resilient.

"In Britain we were taught in the most direct and damaging way by Ash Dieback.

"But it is also important to remain practical and to try not to over-burden the growers, importers, dealers and retailers who will have to make the news rules work. I believe we have got that balance right."

The new regulations will mean more-effective protection, with greater focus on specific pests. New requirements will cover  the movement of plants, both in and out of the EU and within the bloc.

The new regime includes revised quarantine rules, wider application of the phytosanitary certificate regime and so-called plant passports, introduction of the concept of "priority pests" to target urgent cases, and outright bans on plants and products deemed high risk.

Growers and plant-trade professionals will have to register and will be obliged to notify the authorities of any pest found - then take immediate precautions to prevent its spread.

Miss McIntyre said: "The new regulation repeals seven previous pieces of law and brings all the relevant legislation together in one place, so that should help make understanding simpler.

"It will mean some more responsibility and obligations for professionals in the field, but they do have to be our front line in this battle. Without that the danger is that the whole industry can be undermined at huge expense to everyone."