The UK’s departure from the European Union has profound implications for our food, farming and fishing. The Sustain alliance Campaign for a Better Food Britain seeks to ensure the best possible outcome for the UK’s food, farming and fishing industries, for citizens and the environment. Find out more about the Repeal, Trade, Agriculture and Fisheries Bills to come.
Taken together, the food industry is the UK’s biggest employer, and our economy, as well as our health and well-being, depend on it. Working on behalf of UK citizens, the Westminster Parliament and Devolved Administrations must use new post-Brexit freedoms to take back control of our food, farming and fishing.
In June 2017, several pieces of landmark legislation were announced by the Government, of which four are of special significance to food, farming and fishing - the Repeal Bill, Agriculture Bill, Fisheries Bill and Trade Bill. These are the subject of this briefing, highlighting issues of concern to the Sustain alliance. Sustain is also working with its members and others to develop a new Food Act, to set the legal and strategic framework for a Better Food Britain.
The Repeal Bill must effectively convert all existing European law relating to food, farming and fishing, including principles and rights, into domestic law on the statute books. This must include food safety and quality standards; consumer rights and protections; environmental protection; workers’ rights; measures to tackle trafficking and modern slavery; labour conditions and skills; sustainable international development; organic food and farming standards; animal welfare; animal and plant health; chemical and pesticide controls; poverty and inequality reduction; and access to justice. The Repeal Bill must:
Through the Repeal Bill process, the government should also commit to continued promotion of important strategies and plans on which the resilience of our food system depends, and policies and resources to implement them effectively, such as (but not limited to) strategies to protect pollinators, the strategy to reduce unnecessary use of antibiotics in farming, and the strategy for protecting and improving soil.
Sustain has joined the new Fix the Bill alliance, coordinated by Unlock Democracy, to press for better policy outcomes from the Repeal Bill, for people and the planet - health, welfare and sustainability. Sign up your organisation for news or to get involved at www.repealbill.org and follow on Twitter at @fixrepealbill
The Agriculture Bill must secure a fairer, greener deal for farmers. Under a new framework for all nations, a new structure of farm support should reward farmers and land managers for protecting our health as well as precious biodiversity and natural assets, such as climate, soil health, pollinators, water, natural resistance to plant and animal disease cultivated by better farm husbandry, and flood protection.
The Bill should set out commitments to support sustainable rural economies, as well as maintain and enhance support for organic farming to expand domestic organic production so that more UK demand can be met by UK farmers, alongside export growth. Government policy in parallel must make sure that all companies in the supply chain play fair, to support stable trading and decent livelihoods for farmers, at home and abroad, e.g. by extending the remit of the Grocery Code Adjudicator.
The Agriculture Bill should also reinstate the English bargaining body, an Agriculture Wages & Standards Board (noting that Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland have such bodies) to improve prospects and progression for very low-wage workers.
See further details of the policy framework in Beyond 2020: New Farm Policy: www.sustainweb.org/publications/beyond_2020_new_farm_policy/
The Fisheries Bill must save our seas by being set out explicitly as a Sustainable Fisheries Act. It must ensure that all UK and shared fish stocks (including the most economically important species) are fished at scientifically agreed sustainable levels (at or below maximum sustainable yield), and guarantee to continue the hard-won ban on discarding perfectly edible fish. See our thoughts on achieving a sustainable outcome for fishing at: www.sustainweb.org/blogs/jun17_fisheries_bill/
For both the Agriculture and Fisheries Bills, the government should also commit to:
The Trade Bill must make future UK trade deals open, transparent and accountable to Parliament, to ensure that the UK’s important principles and protections are not ‘sold off’. The Trade Bill must establish a democratic and transparent process for the negotiation and ratification of new trade deals that gives MPs the right to scrutinise, amend, accept or reject deals that have been negotiated by the government.
The Trade Bill should set out the UK’s approach to new development-friendly trade policy, for example by ensuring that UK trade and investment policies are compatible with international commitments on the environment, climate change, human rights and UN Sustainable Development Goals. It should also protect the UK’s existing approach to development-friendly trade policy by guaranteeing current preferential trading arrangements with developing countries, with the UK’s purchases of goods worth about £34 billion from the world’s poorest countries. Further, it should ensure trade agreements do not prevent the world’s poorest countries from developing their manufacturing and service sectors.
Sustain is coordinating the Campaign for a Better Food Britain, which is calling for a new Food Act. The remit of the Food Act will be affected by the progress – or otherwise – of securing important principles in the Agriculture, Fisheries and Trade Bills (above). However, the overarching aim is to set the strategy and legal framework that would enhance the UK’s tradition and reputation for world-leading food, farming and fishing standards. It will also seek to prevent the UK being drawn into a race to the bottom to weaken food safety and quality, nutritional quality, environmental protection, workers’, citizens and consumer rights and protections, and food information and labelling. We must build confidence, and help British food producers tap into markets for high quality food, at home and abroad.
The following people are the main contacts for Sustain's work on the issues outlined above, who can also provide links to sector specialists:
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Kath is Chief Executive of Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming, since 2016 leading the alliance's response to Brexit and its profound implications for healthy and sustainable food, farming and fishing and developing the Campaign for a Better Food Britain. During 2018 she became a Commissioner for the RSA's Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, after having served on the steering group that led to its establishment.
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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.