Robert was educated at Ashville College, Harrogate and trained in accountancy.
He built up a substantial family farming business, mainly in arable crops and he finds this practical experience invaluable in policy discussion in Parliament.
As being an MEP involves so much travelling from home to Brussels when he has time off he enjoys nothing more than helping out around the farm.
His passion for agriculture started young when he became County Chairman of the Young Farmers.
Active in the NFU, Robert held a number of appointments and chairmanships including Chairman of the Regional Livestock Committee and Sugarbeet, Potatoes and Cereals Committee and was involved in the WTO Uruguay round negotiations. It was this that led to his growing interest in international trade and the important role that agriculture plays within it.
Robert takes a keen interest in animal welfare and the environment and is a member of the RSPB and Vice-President of the Cambridgeshire Beekeepers Association. Robert is treasurer of the Land Use and Food Policy Intergroup and Chairman of the Sustainable Hunting Intergroup.
Robert got his first taste of politics at school, winning the public speaking trophy. Since then he has been a councillor and was a constituency chairman from1990-93.
Robert has represented East Anglia since June 1994 and is currently the Conservative member responsible for Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire. In 1999 he was elected Deputy Chairman of the Conservatives in the European Parliament and held this position until 2001 when he decided that commitments of the European Foot and Mouth inquiry committee would take up most of his time.
He used his position as Conservative, and EPP-ED spokesman on Agriculture (1994-2001) and Rural Affairs (2001-2004) to lead the campaign to set up the first public inquiry into the epidemic.
Since becoming the ECR (European and Conservatives) Coordinator for International Trade, Robert has focussed his energies on holding the Commission to account. As this is an area where Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht negotiates on behalf of all EU member states he believes it is important that the British public’s interest is taken into account.
From the “Bra Wars” debacle, where thousands of Chinese textiles and bras were blocked in Europe’s ports, to Economic Partnership Agreements, which aim to put trade at the service of development, through the EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement, Robert works on trade issues that affect all of our lives. He is also a member of the EU-ACP (Africa, Caribbean, Pacific) Joint Parliamentary Assembly.
In addition to his role in International Trade, Robert is also a substitute member of the Parliament’s Agriculture Committee. He follows both committees closely when they overlap with areas of his experience and expertise.