Brexit: opportunities and threats for food, farming and fishing

Tell your MP you want a say in future trade deals

Discussions on post Brexit trade deals have already started and we are concerned that British people and our MPs won’t have a say.

Take action


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

We stand at a cross-roads. Will our leaders create new trade deals that sweep aside sustainability standards, climate change commitments, fair dealing, consumer protection, humane production and investment in international development, bowing to intense pressures to deregulate? Or will the UK choose a better path, towards a healthy, fair, humane and sustainable food and farming system?

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


Join the Brexit email list

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.

Health Minister Steve Brine says Brexit will allow us to 'take back control' of our food labelling

The Health Select Committee’s Inquiry on childhood obesity took evidence from several government ministers yesterday. During proceedings, Public Health Minister Steve Brine commented that Brexit was an opportunity ‘to take back control’ of our food labelling.


New research paper published on impact of Brexit on British business

Former Chancellor and now Harvard research fellow Ed Balls has published a research paper (co-written with fellow researcher Peter Sands) on the latest thinking of senior trade negotiation officials in the US and UK. You can read the full paper here.


Food prices will almost certainly rise after Brexit unless UK signs good trade deal with EU, says House of Lords

Currently, half of the UK’s food is imported, 30% of it comes from the EU. Being part of the EU customs union has meant that food from the EU can enter the UK easily with no tariffs.


Sustain's response to the health and harmony farm consultation

Sustain has made it’s submission to the Defra Health and Harmony future farm policy consultation, drawing on the expertise of our strong and growing alliance. The moment feels historic.

Loss of protected geographical status could affect £4.8billion worth of UK foods

The loss of Geographical Indication (GI) after leaving the EU could cost the UK food industry billions of pounds.


Liam Fox speech tries to brush aside consumer concerns on food standards

Liam Fox is due to give a speech today in which he will reportedly say that it is 'anti-trade' and a 'myth' to point out that future trade deals we sign after Brexit could result in a 'degradation of food and environmental standards'. He says this is a false claim and even says it is a 'deception'. 


UK pig farmers support lifting ban on feeding pigs leftovers

New research has shown that over 75% of pig farmers and agricultural professionals support overturning the current ban on feeding leftovers to pigs.

RSA Food Farming and Countryside Commission travels the country to ask “what’s on your plate?” 

A national tour is asking the public about what matters to them about food, farming and countryside, as the UK negotiates its exit from the EU. 


US farmers say their meat is safe - Sustain raises questions

The president of the American National Farmer’s Union says chlorine-washed chicken and hormone injected beef is “perfectly safe” and there has been a lot of “fear-mongering.”


Sustain gives oral and written evidence to MP committee on future farm policy

Sustain provided written and oral evidence to the MP's Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committeei Inquiry into the Government’s consultation: ‘Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit.’  At the oral evidence session on 25 April 2018 Vicki Hird spoke of the need to address public health as a public good alongside social, ethical and environmental goods, and to take account of farm diversity and farmworker's needs. She highlighted public procurement as an opportunity, the need to maintain high standards in any trade deal  and for greater regulation to ensure fair play in the supply chain.

Hard Brexit would be a lose-lose for the fishing industry and consumers

New analysis, reported in the Guardian today, has found that both the UK fishing industry and consumers would be financially worse off from a hard Brexit.

Parliamentary report finds a No EU Deal would be disastrous for UK exports and must be avoided

A parliamentary report into the impact of Brexit on the processed food and drink sector has found that a no EU deal scenario would be disastrous for UK exports and should be avoided.


Brexit: an opportunity for a thriving pig industry that saves the planet

The UK pork industry is currently unsustainable both in economic and environmental terms. To create a sustainable UK livestock industry that can thrive, we need to return to the practice of feeding food waste to pigs says Christina O'Sullivan of Feedback: The environmental organisation campaigning to change the food system.

Food is a critical issue for Northern Ireland and Brexit, say food inspectors

The absence of serious consideration of food flows into, out of and through Northern Ireland is a significant policy omission in the ongoing Brexit negotiations, argue Professor Tim Lang and authors from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.


Trades unions express concern over workers rights in the EU Withdrawal Bill

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is concerned the EU Withdrawal Bill will not provide any effective protection for workers’ rights. Instead it would provide UK Ministers “with wide-ranging powers to repeal, dilute or limit hard-won employment rights”.


Public health bodies call on Government to 'do no harm'

The Faculty of Public Health and a coalition of public health groups, including Sustain, are supporting a Lords amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, called the ‘Do No Harm’ amendment, and tabled by Crossbench Peer Lord Warner.


Brexit requires a 4-nation approach to UK environment, farming and fisheries

The Institute for Government has published a report on Devolution after Brexit, 'Managing the environment, agriculture and fisheries', recommending changes to the way the governments of the four UK nations interact and make decisions.


Fisheries and environment at risk from not-so-green Brexit

Friends of the Earth is warning of risks to fish and the environment from a not-so-green Brexit, following an analysis of likely scenarios by Sheffield University.


Finders fee for English speaking farmworkers

A labour body has introduced a £200 fee for finding people who speak good English as competition for seasonal agricultural workers grows.


Gove promotes public health in farm policy

At the consultation event co-hosted with Sustain and DEFRA on 10 April 2018, Michael Gove, Defra Secretary of State urged people to take advantage of the Defra consultation on Future Farming to 'make it clear what you want’ saying “I want a food and farming policy that reflects what the people in the country want – higher standards and better outcomes.” and noted the need to “stop it being shaped by vested interests to imprint their agenda.”

British Library cooks up post-Brexit food policy debate

Join Hungry City author Carolyn Steel, Guardian journalist Felicity Lawrence, RSPB biodiversity specialist Lucy Bjorck and Kath Dalmeny of Sustain for an evening of debate on the future of our food system, post-Brexit.


Future of Farming conference 27-28 April 2018

Book your ticket now for the Future of Farming conference, run by the Sustainable Food Trust and featuring talks by Secretary of State for Defra Michael Gove and NFU President Minette Batters, among many others.

Trade deal could see hormone beef on our supermarket shelves

Australia is reportedly set to demand that Britain imports hormone-treated beef under a post-Brexit trade deal. Hormone-treated beef has been banned for years from all EU countries on safety grounds.


New Brexit Think Tank to lobby for consumer protection

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) is setting up a new think tank to consider the enormous implications of Brexit on trading standards



Time is running out for a Green Brexit

The Greener UK coalition has issued a warning that we need to act now for nature’s recovery and a healthy environment.


Brexit deals could lead to influx of invasive plant and animal species

New trade routes formed after UK leaves the EU could leave Britain inundated with invasive species. According to Wildlife and Countryside Link last year invasive species cost Britain over £2billion.


Groups release statement on need for a diverse farm system

A group of farming, conservation and environmental groups (1) are releasing today (21 March 2018) a statement calling for the protection and enhancement of farm diversity as a core purpose of the new agriculture bill (2). The measures they are calling for will help deliver the food we need whilst creating a resilient and dynamic farming industry, which works for the wider community as well as for the environment.

Prices will fall by 1.2% at most

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has issued a new report today which shows that if we choose to abolish all tariffs on products, inlcuding food, entering the UK when we exit the EU this “would have only a limited impact on the cost of living of the average household.”



Fears grow that US trade deal could be harmful for child health

Children’s health experts fear a future trade deal with the US could undermine UK efforts to reduce sugar consumption and import American levels of diet-related diseases alongside their produce.


Where have all the food police gone?

Fresh analysis from Sustain, the food and farming alliance, suggests that Britain’s domestic regulators are hopelessly ill equipped for the extra work load that leaving the EU will entail.


Restaurants scramble to hire staff before Brexit exodus

Hotels, pubs, bars and restaurants are on a hiring spree - despite a consumer downturn - because they fear a shortage of migrant workers when Britain leaves the EU.


‘Don’t Hide What’s Inside’

GM Freeze call for compulsory GM labelling and strict regulation on growing and importing GM crops.


How organic farming can make the UK a world leader in food

The Organic Research Centre is awarded government funding for two major research projects on organic farming.

Sustainable Soils Alliance welcomes recognition of soil as "natural capital"

The Sustainable Soils Alliance has welcomed the government's recognition in its 25 Year Environment Plan that soil is a pillar of natural capital alongside air and water, and that all three are fundamental for our country’s long-term economic growth and productivity.

Animal welfare after Brexit

Wildlife and Countryside Link have published a detailed analysis of animal welfare standards post-Brexit. The report is supported by more than 40 organisations and a number of MPs and Peers.

UK free-trade think tank says American beef is a Brexit ‘gain’

An influential UK free-trade think tank has identified eating American beef as a ‘gain’ for British consumers from post-Brexit trade deals, whilst claiming food safety and health concerns about US food standards are ‘myths’.


Parliamentary committee tells government: don’t sacrifice high food standards for trade deals

A parliamentary committee has told the government’s Brexit and trade negotiators that they must not sacrifice Britain’s high food standards in order to secure trade deals.


Farming groups condemn Government response to unfair trading practices as ‘utterly weak'

The Government has today failed to protect British and overseas farmers from unfair trading practices by refusing to extend the remit of the Groceries Code Adjudicator to include primary producers.

Sustain responds to Labour Party animal welfare proposals

Sustain's chief executive Kath Dalmeny welcomes Labour's proposals for a raft of new animal welfare measures, published in today's Guardian newspaper.

New data adds to fears of weakened food regulations in post Brexit trade deals

New data revealed by the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics has revealed that livestock raised for food in the US are dosed with five times as much antibiotic medicine as farm animals in the UK.


US farming uses five times as much antibiotics as UK

The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics warn post-Brexit deal-makers not to lower UK farm standards to match US - where antibiotic use is five times higher than in the UK

Sustain submits evidence to Parliament against cheap food imports after Brexit

Last week Sustain submitted evidence to the Trade Bill Committee in Parliament. In it we argued that cheap food imports are a risk to our health and to 3.9m jobs in the UK's food and farming industries.



Sustain responds to Andrew Percy MP's comments backing US chlorine chicken

Today, Farmer's Guardian posted a story in which Andrew Percy MP was quoted as saying comments against American chlorinated  chicken feed 'anti-American bigotry'. 


Sustain responds to the Labour party's fishing policy consultation

During December 2017 and January 2018, the UK Labour Party consulted on their policies for coastal communities, in particular fishing and the fishing industry.

Read on for Sustainable Fish Cities' response to this consultation.


10 red lines for UK food trade deals

Many are now deeply concerned that in the race to secure international trade deals, the UK may come under severe pressure to compromise our food standards – a damaging race to the bottom. Sustain's Kath Dalmeny sets out how trade deals must now be used to promote a beneficial race to the top.


Conference: Brexit and Wales: Land and Sea

A conference on the Implications of Brexit for Rural Land Management and Fisheries in Wales will take place on Tuesday 13th February 2018, 11am-4pm a the Medrus Centre, Aberystwyth University. Speakers are from the Wales Centre for Public Policy and Sustain alliance member New Economics Foundation.


Commission prompts big thoughts on farming, rural economies and health

If we are going to make the most of Brexit for food, farming and our countryside, we would do well to reflect on what opportunities are presented by this moment in history. So says Kath Dalmeny of Sustain, newly appointed as a commissioner to the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission launched in November by the RSA.

Drug laced bacon among risks of US-UK trade deal

The Soil Association release 10 food safety concerns with a transatlantic trade deal. The list includes ractopamine in pork, flame retardant in citrus drinks and chicken litter being used as animal feed.


40 animal charities urge Government to improve welfare post-Brexit

The Government is told to take action on cruel puppy trade, live farm animal exports, foie gras and fur imports to ensure UK can maintain its role as pioneer for animals.


Poetry and farming anthology published

Sustain has been delighted to read the poems of Adam Horowitz following his launch at the Oxford Real Farming Conference in January 2018. The Soil Never Sleeps is the second full collection of poetry by Adam Horovitz, published by Palewell Press in January 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.