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Brexit: opportunities and threats for food, farming and fishing

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The result of the EU Referendum in June 2016 has vast implications for our food, fishing and farming.

We stand at a cross-roads. When the UK leaves the European Union, will our leaders uphold good standards for our food, farming, fishing and trade deals?  And will they agree a sensible deal with the EU? We need to make sure that they do!

Work on post-EU food and farming policy will require very considerable efforts by Sustain and other organisations over the coming years. We are organising our work around three main themes:

  • Protecting existing high standards for food, fishing and farming
  • Building a new framework for standards in food, fishing and farming that are fit for the future
  • Ensuring that voices are heard - especially those of concerned citizens, smaller farmers, fishers and food producers; food, farming and fishery specialists; and those experiencing disadvantage

Sustain is responding to the result of the EU Referendum by coordinating organisations who work on the environment, health, trade, animal welfare, farming, fishing, workers’ rights, food safety, and economy to cultivate a shared voice for better food, fishing and farming. Key elements of our work are reported in the menu on this page.

Please read our proposals to the UK Government for what should be covered in any new Farming policy and Fisheries policy in the wake of Brexit


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Opportunities and threats for food, farming and fishing.

Contact us

If you want to be involved in, or find out more about Sustain’s work on Brexit related food and farming policy please contact Sustain chief executive, Kath Dalmeny

To ensure joined-up policy activities, Sustain is also working with:

  • All Party Parliamentary Group on Agroecology

    An informal, cross-party group of MPs and Peers interested in sustainable food and farming. The APPG on Agroecology for sustainable food and farming was formed to provide a parliamentary focus for the contribution of agroecology to food security in the UK and worldwide.

  • Food Research Collaboration

    Coordinated by the Centre for Food Policy at City University London, facilitates joint working by academics and civil society to improve the UK food system, including running seminars involving academics, civil society, policy-makers and industry. A key focus for this work over the next few years will be Brexit, and co-creating better governance for food, farming, fishing and trade.

  • Greener UK

    A group of 13 major environmental organisations, with a combined public membership of 7.9 million (some of which organisations are also members of the Sustain alliance). They are united in the belief that leaving the EU is a pivotal moment to restore and enhance the UK’s environment.

  • Nourish Scotland

    Nourish Scotland campaigns on food justice issues in Scotland. Nourish believes that tasty and nutritious food should be accessible to everyone, be sustainable, and be produced, processed, sold and served in a way that values and respects workers. Nourish is a leading voice promoting the Good Food Nation Bill for Scotland, and a Right to Food.

  • Trade Justice Movement

    The Trade Justice Movement is a UK coalition calling for trade rules that work for people and planet. Sustain is working with the Trade Justice Movement’s call for the new UK Trade Bill to support trade justice, with the rules weighted to ensure sustainable outcomes for ordinary people and the environment.

  • Unlock Democracy

    Unlock Democracy is a grassroots organisation arguing and campaigning for a vibrant, inclusive democracy that puts power in the hands of the people. Unlock Democracy is coordinating cross-sector work on the Great Repeal Bill, and Sustain is working with the team in their efforts to achieve the best democratic, social, economic and environmental outcomes.

  • Wildlife & Countryside Link

    Wildlife and Countryside Link brings together 46 environment and animal protection organisations to advocate for the conservation and protection of wildlife, countryside and the marine environment. Taken together they have the support of over eight million people in the UK and manage over 750,000 hectares of land. Sustain is working closely with the Link Legal Strategy group.

A report issued today by the UK’s spending watchdog says DEFRA is no longer in a position to deliver on its ‘no deal’ Brexit preparations.

The NAO has warned that the government has failed to hire enough vets to process exports from the UK and there are fears that this means food and livestock could be delayed at UK borders after Brexit.


BMA warns against government prioritising economics over health in future trade agreements

Ahead of the second reading of the Trade Bill in the House of Lords on Tuesday 11 September, the British Medical Association has published a parliamentary briefing on international trade and health, entitled ‘Beyond Brexit’.


Shoppers could unknowingly eat hormone beef after Brexit

A new report by the Food Research Collaboration says there are signs that government ministers are willing to sacrifice food standards for Brexit deals.


Future of farming in Northern Ireland

NI Executive launches consultation on future of agriculture after Brexit. Sustain member the RSPB respond saying the protection and restoration of the environment should be the central focus.


Fairer supply chain needed as part of new Agriculture Bill

Sustain joined with eleven other farming and civil society groups to write an open letter on the need for the new Agriculture Bill to include powers to strengthen supply chain regulation. This featured in Farmers Weekly the farming magazine. 

Sustain response to food and farming Brexit 'no deal' technical notices released today

Sustain makes the following comment on the notices on How to prepare if the UK leaves the EU with no deal released by the government today:


A ‘no deal’ Brexit will indeed mean shortages – mainly of food and farming jobs, workers, transport and common sense

A ‘no deal’ Brexit would be an unacceptable and damaging outcome for British farmers, food businesses, consumers and the environment. Yet the understanding of how our food system works is dismayingly low among senior decision-makers. How can good food sense prevail? asks Kath Dalmeny, Brexit lead for Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming.


Brexit deal or no deal? The impact on our food supplies: Sustain responds

The possibility of the UK crashing out of the EU with ‘no deal’ has raised the spectre of potential food shortages. Sustain comments, urging a fair, measured and well-planned approach to avoid unnecessary food disruption and anxiety, particularly for the 8.4 million people in the UK already living with food insecurity.


Sustain joins environmental campaign groups rejecting government fishing proposals

Leading marine NGOs have issued a rallying cry: write to Michael Gove now to call for better post-Brexit fishing policy

Sustain Brexit Forum, Autumn 2018 - save the date(s)

Save the date(s): This is an extract from the Sustain Brexit Forum newsletter. Sign up to receive regular updates (monthly or bi-monthly) at:


Sustain Brexit Forum news roundup: Brexit deal or no deal?

The possibility of the UK crashing out of the EU with ‘no deal’ has dominated the past few febrile weeks on the Brexit scene. This is an extract from Sustain's Brexit Forum newsletter, examining the implications of a 'no deal' Brexit for food, farming and fishing. Sign up to receive news updates monthly or bi-monthly at:


Sustain Brexit Forum news roundup: Sustainable farming

Farm support, access to farm labour and the future of animal welfare are just some of the issues being addressed in UK farm policy. This is an extract from Sustain's Brexit Forum newsletter, June/July 2018. Sign up to receive news updates monthly or bi-monthly at:


Sustain Brexit Forum news roundup: Sustainable fish

The Government's plan for replacing the EU Common Fisheries Policy has at last been published - find out more here. This is an extract from Sustain's Brexit Forum newsletter, June/July 2018. Sign up to receive news updates monthly or bi-monthly at:


Sustain Brexit Forum news roundup: RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission

How can we use the whole resource of public and private money and social capital to support thriving food, farming and countryside? This is an extract from Sustain's Brexit Forum newsletter, June/July 2018. Sign up to receive news updates monthly or bi-monthly at:


Sustain Brexit Forum news roundup: Environment policy

A new Environment Act, green watchdog and institutions to regulate chemicals are all needed - and must be robust enough to defend our health and the natural environment. Just some of the issues being addressed in UK environment policy. This is an extract from Sustain's Brexit Forum newsletter, June/July 2018. Sign up to receive news updates monthly or bi-monthly at:


Sustain Brexit Forum news roundup: Food standards and trade

The new UK Trade Bill, preparations for future trade deals, and US food standards have been dominating the media and Parliament. With so much to play for in food, farming and fishing, read more about the latest developments in UK trade policy. This is an extract from Sustain's Brexit Forum newsletter, June/July 2018. Sign up to receive news updates monthly or bi-monthly at:


Sustain Brexit Forum news roundup: EU Withdrawal Bill

Farm support, access to farm labour and the future of animal welfare are just some of the issues being addressed in UK farm policy. This is an extract from Sustain's Brexit Forum newsletter, June/July 2018. Sign up to receive news updates monthly or bi-monthly at:


Sustain shortlisted in three categories for Charity Times awards 2018

Sustain is shortlisted for its work on Brexit (PR Team category), SUGAR SMART (Campaigning Team category) and for the Children's Health Fund (Corporate Partnership with a Retailer category). The winners will be announced on 3 October 2018.


Farm worker need better protection in new Agriculture Bill

In a new briefing out today (25 July 2018) the Sustain alliance makes the case for bringing in a new body in England to negotiate wages and better conditions for agriculture workers.

New report claims Government 'no deal' plans would abandon border checks for perishable goods

The latest Food Brexit briefing from the Food Research Collaboration at City University (published 23 July) includes the explosive claim that the government is planning to suspend food safety measures in favour of waving through perishable goods, if we fail to secure a Brexit deal with the EU.


Nature charities say Environment Bill needs to be more ambitious

Wildlife and Countryside Link (who are part of the Sustain alliance) have co-ordinated 25 charities to challenge the Prime Minister to be more ambitious in the scope and detail of the newly announced Environment Bill.


Public health must be a public good in UK agriculture policy

Academics, public health advocates and food and farming specialists have joined forces to call on the Prime Minister and her Cabinet, formally to recognise public health as a public good in UK agriculture policy.

US blocked breastfeeding protections - I know, I was there

Patti Rundall OBE, policy director of Baby Milk Action, gives an eye-witness account of US government bullying tactics to prevent global efforts to protect breastfeeding and restrict misleaing marketing of breastmilk substitutes. It wasn't "fake news", she says - it really happened - "I know, I was there".



Scotland’s plans for farming are ‘underwhelming’

Nourish Scotland (who are part of Sustain) believe that recent government publications on the future of Scottish agriculture give no clear direction for farming after Brexit.


United States tries to block WHO moves to promote breastfeeding

Recent moves by the World Health Organisation to encourage breastfeeding across the globe were reportedly blocked by the United States of America. Drawing on decades of research showing that mother’s milk is the healthiest for children the resolution ran into trouble when the US, apparently responding to the financial interests of infant formula manufacturers, objected.


"Common rule book" for UK-EU food standards is welcome; many questions remain

The UK Government has today committed to negotiate with the EU for "a common rule book for all goods including agri-food" - Sustain's chief executive Kath Dalmeny welcomes the aspiration and raises concerns about the detail.


Farm Based Inspiration out of the Westminster Bubble

Policy work these days can be stifling; keeping you stuck to a desk, locked in meetings and shuffling around Westminster. It is only a matter of time before we hear news of Brexit fatigue or even burn out. The sheer volume of news and Bills and lobbying requirements makes it hard to go out and see what is happening in the field and talk to ‘real people’.

Government plays ‘red tape reduction’ card in response to Honest Crust Act call

Replying to a parliamentary question prompted by the Real Bread Campaign’s latest loaf labelling crusade, the Minister of State at Defra has rejected any improvement “in the interests of reducing unnecessary regulatory burden”.

Real Bread Campaign

Buying cheap bacon lets down pigs and their farmers

Sustain Alliance members Compassion in World Farming released a Brexit briefing this week, spelling out the gaps in animal welfare standards between the UK and its likely future trading partners. They also specified the measures needed to be put in place to protect animal welfare.


Call on your MP to urge for better loaf labelling laws

Do you think that shoppers and small, independent local bakeries deserve better protection from the effects of incomplete loaf labelling and potentially misleading marketing?

Real Bread Campaign

Eight out of ten Brits ‘not comfortable’ with hormones in beef production

A detailed Which? survey on attitudes to Brexit also found that nine out of ten consumers think maintaining food standards after Brexit is important.


Legal status of the environment after Brexit

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Agroecology event on ‘The Environmental Watchdog: The Legal Status of Post-Brexit Environmental Protections’ will be held on 4 July. Find out how to book.


How to stop infectious diseases spreading after Brexit

Sustain member the Faculty of Public Health launch a blueprint on how the UK can collaborate with Europe to defend against infectious diseases after Brexit.


UK fisheries losing out on millions of pounds of business as UK buyers look abroad for sustainable fish

An investigation by Sustainable Fish Cities, and published today in the Independent, has found that UK fishers are losing out on markets worth an estimated £62 million because UK companies are buying-in sustainable fish from overseas.

Comment on MP Environment food and farming Committee report on Defra's future farm policy proposals

On publication today (6 June) of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs  Select Committee Report on The future for food, farming and the environment, Sustain’s Farming Campaign Coordinator, Vicki Hird, says

Chlorine washing may fail the food safety test, microbiologists say

British microbiologists have found that chlorine-washing food does not kill listeria and salmonella food poisoning bugs. The technique has been the cause of controversy relating to US and UK food standards, especially chlorine-washed chicken.

Seminar: Public health as a ‘public good’ from agriculture

This half-day seminar, 11 July 2018, will examine the question: ‘Public health as a ‘public good’ from agriculture: How can we win support for this principle from UK policy makers?’

Northern Ireland farmers could get ‘basic income’ guarantee

Stormont is considering a direct payment for Northern Ireland farmers, but at a level "significantly below" current EU subsidies.

Sustain urges MPs to secure a better deal for the UK fishing industry

The UK Fisheries Bill, due for introduction to Parliament in 2018, needs to have a strong overall vision, to make sure fishers are guaranteed a bright, sustainable future.

Sustain tells environmental audit committee food businesses must help secure UK sustainable fisheries

Sustain has submitted evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee ‘Sustainable Seas’ inquiry, urging government to make more use of the very significant buying power of the public and food business sectors to secure a sustainable future for fish stocks and marine ecosystems.

Lack of UK commitment to end overfishing raises renewed concerns

Sustain has raised renewed concerns about the UK’s commitment to end overfishing, as leading European fishery policy experts highlight the need for all EU members to accelerate progress towards their agreed 2020 deadline.

Scottish Parliament rejects EU Withdrawal Bill as Westminster power grab

The Scottish Parliament voted unanimously on 15 May to withhold consent for the government’s proposed EU Withdrawal Bill. The move airs concerns that the Bill represents a power grab by Westminster over devolved policy areas such as agriculture and fisheries, as policy-setting responsibilities return to the UK from the EU.


House of Commons publishes Brexit timetable

The House of Commons Library has produced a range of helpful documents, including this recently updated Brexit Timeline, covering the period 2016 to 2020.


UK ports, airports, businesses and trade negotiators ill-prepared for Brexit, say industry and parliamentarians

Three separate parliamentary committees - as well as supermarket and food manufacturing associations – and former government trade advisors – have warned that the UK is ill-prepared for future trade deals.


UK food and drink industry calls for EU free trade agreement

The House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee has said the Government should prioritise a free trade agreement with the EU to protect the UK food manufacturing industry and hundreds of thousands of British jobs.

Conference, 1 November 2018: Watered down food safety standards: Fact or Fiction?

Food Brexit is a major food industry conference that will take place in London on 1 November 2018, with Sustain’s chief executive Kath Dalmeny speaking in a session focusing on the opportunities, risks and challenges of implementing a US-UK trade deal.

Consultation on proposed environment watchdog criticised by UN and many Sustain members

The UK government has launched a consultation on environmental governance after Brexit, widely received with disappointment by environment and wildlife groups, with one industry commentator saying that it shows “the misperception that regulations are bad for growth still stands in the way of good environmental policymaking”.


Sustain members work with other farming organisations on post-Brexit policy

Members of the Sustain alliance including the Soil Association and LEAF met in Belfast this month to agree on a position for agriculture after Britain has left the EU.


Government to use prisoners on day release to fill the workforce gap after Brexit.

Justice Secretary David Gauke announced yesterday the government’s intention to put offenders to work in sectors likely to be hit by the UK leaving the European Union. This could include catering, retail, manufacturing and agriculture.


US food standards? “Over my dead body,” says Gove

Secretary of State Michael Gove MP has said that the UK would accept US food standards “over my dead body”, in an interview with good food advocate Rosie Boycott at the Hay Festival, 2018.



Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming

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.