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.

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".



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.

HMRC head warns post-Brexit customs checks could cost £20 billion

The HMRC has told parliament’s Treasury Committee that a high-tech customs option for future UK imports and exports could cost UK businesses up to £20 billion per year. Agri-food currently represents 11% of trade flows by value between the UK and the EU, so food manufacturers and farmers could expect to bear some of such additional costs.


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.


Gove announces Clean Air Strategy

On 22 May Michael Gove announced plans to tackle sources of air pollution, saying the Government wants to clamp down on things like coal burning and ammonia from farms. Sustain responds


EU seeks trade deals with Australia and New Zealand that protect EU farmers

Media reports suggest that the EU has “leapt ahead of the UK in the pursuit of free trade deals with Australia and New Zealand” after member states gave the green light for talks to start within weeks.

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.


CLA landowners propose Land Management Contract for public funds

Country Land and Business Associates (CLA) has proposed a new Land Management Contract for the payment for delivery of public benefits.

MPs to debate 15 House of Lords amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill

The House of Lords has voted in favour of 15 significant amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill, set to return to the House of Commons within weeks. Several are highly relevant to standards for food, farming and fishing.


Government confirms ‘Do No Harm’ public health duty will remain after Brexit

The Government confirmed on 16 May that the ‘Do No Harm’ public health duty will remain as a central tenet of UK policy after the UK leaves the European Union.


‘Transition deal offers certainty’, Defra tells seafood companies

Brexit transition arrangements recently agreed between the UK and EU, set to last until the end of 2020, should reassure seafood companies and provide opportunities to prepare for the future, said UK fisheries minister George Eustice.

UK farming groups unite to call for EU single market access

The UK Farming Roundtable has called on government to prioritise taking “every step to retain and protect a single market access for food, agricultural commodities, live animals and plant products throughout the UK”.

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.


Defra receives 44,000 responses to consultation on the future of UK farm policy

More than 44,000 responses were received on the Government’s ‘Health and Harmony’ proposals for the future for food, farming and the environment after Brexit, with at least one third estimated to have been generated by Sustain members.

‘Public health should be a public good in farm policy’, say health professionals

The Faculty of Public Health, representing around 4,000 health professionals, has called on the government to recognise public health as a public good in farm policy.

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 MPs' 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.’ 

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.



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.