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.

  • Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics

    The Alliance to Save our Antibiotics is a coalition of health, medical, farming, environmental and civil society organisations from across the EU, founded by Sustain, Compassion in World Farming and the Soil Association. Our vision is a world in which human and animal health and well-being are protected by food and farming systems that do not rely on routine antibiotic use.

  • 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.

What does the draft Brexit agreement mean for food and farming?

Sustain responds to the Brexit agreement and comments on the potential implications for food, fishing and farming, and the impact on the environment, health, businesses and citizens.


Call to stop mega pig farm in Northern Ireland

Sustain member Friends of the Earth warns against the impact that a mega pig farm would have on animal welfare and the environment.

Sustainable Food

Parliamentary Committee warns DEFRA has ‘lost sight of its priorities’

An influential parliamentary committee has warned that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is too complacent about potential disruption to trade and says fundamental issues for food, chemical and animal importers and exporters are yet to be resolved. The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) also found the Department had not engaged adequately with small and medium businesses and as a result the SMEs are ‘ill prepared’ for Brexit.


Public Health and Agriculture Policy: Why we need a new clause linking public health and farming

For too long agriculture policy has failed in its stated goals to protect farmers or stop harm arising from food production. We have the opportunity in the UK now to address these failings and ensure UK farm policy supports farmers in producing food whilst delivering public benefits like environment and nature, tackling climate change and other benefits. These are defined, somewhat loosely, as ‘public goods’.  What seems less well understood is the need to protect public health via agriculture policy. 

The food industry’s response to Autumn Budget

A roundup of responses from the food and drink industry to the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s 2018 Budget.

Better Food Britain

Brexit guide for public health campaigners

Sustain member the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) have written a guide for public health campaigners for the process of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.


New PAN UK briefing on the whys and hows of adopting a pesticide reduction target

Sustain member Pesticide Action Network UK has a new briefing on how to set a target and ways in which it could be used to drive a meaningful and lasting reduction in pesticide use.

Michael Gove commits to EU food standards after Brexit

Defra Ministers Michael Gove and George Eustice gave evidence to the Environment and Rural Affairs Select Committee today.


Could future trade deals thwart UK efforts to tackle illegal fishing and consumer choice?

Sustain is concerned that a no-deal Brexit, and subsequent trade deals, may undermine crucial efforts to tackle Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, and affect the information available to consumers on packaging.

Agriculture and animal welfare after Brexit

Sustain member the Wildlife and Countryside Link host the next seminar in their series on Brexit.


The Agriculture Bill: MPs debate a future farm policy

MPs were falling over themselves to show interest in farming during the six hour Second Reading of the Agriculture Bill on 10 October. The Debate ended with a vote on a Labour reasoned amendment on the Bill's lack fo reference to food security - a frequent comment throughout the debate. The vote was lost and so the Bill now goes to committee stage.

Trading with Australia, New Zealand and the US

The Department of Trade wants your views on trade opportunities after Brexit.


The future of Welsh farmland after Brexit

The Welsh Government are seeking views on securing the future of farmland after Brexit.


Petition to clearly label GM foods

Sustain members GM Freeze and Beyond GM have joined together to launch a new petition to protect consumers’ rights in knowing whether they are buying food made from GM ingredients.


The UK Agriculture Bill is a bit 'fishy' – sustainable fish folk need to get involved

The implications of the UK Agriculture Bill go beyond farming. This article sets out the three big areas that sustainable fishing specialists may have missed. Those concerned with sustainable fishing need get involved in the parliamentary process to come.

Oxford farmers, customers and policy specialists discuss the future of farming

A group of Oxfordshire farmers and their customers, local businesses and national policy specialists will meet on October 9 to discuss the future for local farming and the rural economy, the day before Parliament debates the future of UK farming policy and farm subsidies post-Brexit, as outlined in Secretary of State for farming Michael Gove’s draft UK Agriculture Bill.

Melton Mowbray pies will still have Geographical Indication after Brexit

The UK will create its own Geographical Indication (GI) system if there is a no-deal Brexit.


Government plans to avoid EU ban on farmers using preventative antibiotics

The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics - convened by Sustain, Compassion in World Farming and the Soil Association - expresses dismay at plans for the UK to continue to allow routine use of farm antibiotics after Brexit, despite an imminent EU-wide ban on this dangerous practice.

David Rutley appointed ‘Food Supplies Minister’

The MP for Macclesfield is to oversee the protection of UK food supplies amid concerns of a no-deal Brexit.


Theresa May defends her post-Brexit aim for alignment with EU standards in livestock and agriculture

On a two day trip to a United Nations summit in New York this week Theresa May insisted that a no-deal Brexit would be better for the UK than any Canada-style free trade agreement allowed by the EU.

Better Food Britain

A Labour government would rethink fishing quotas and set up new fund for sustainable fishing and farming

In a new environmental policy ‘The Green Transformation’, released yesterday, Labour set out bold new proposals for fishing as part of three key priorities; addressing climate change, air and water quality, and reversing biodiversity loss.

Government urged to relax rules on gene editing

Agri-tech scientists are calling on the government to relax the rules on gene editing after Brexit. Sustain member GM Freeze believes we need to keep the EU’s strong safeguards in place.


The UK Agriculture Bill contains some wins, but more work is needed

A draft of the first UK Agriculture Act for nearly 50 years (currently in Bill form) was published last week (12 September 2018). For the Sustain alliance, we have something to celebrate as it contains specific measures to achieve fairer trading and more sustainable farming.

UK spending watchdog says Defra is no longer in a position to deliver on ‘no deal’ Brexit preparations.

The National Audit Office (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’.



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.