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Sustain Brexit MP briefings and parliamentary position papers

85 organisations co-sign letter to Brexit minister

Photo credit: Sustain members and others participating in one of Sustain's Brexit Forum events

Photo credit: Sustain members and others participating in one of Sustain's Brexit Forum events
Following the EU Referendum, in July 2016 Sustain coordinated a letter co-signed by 85 organisations, addressed to Brexit secretary of state David Davis MP and Theresa May PM, stressing the important implications of Brexit for food, farming and fishing. The text and signatories of the original letter, and the subsequent response from the Government in December 2016, are shown below.

David Davis MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA        14 July, 2016

Dear David Davis MP (copied to Theresa May PM),

We are writing to you in your role overseeing the new government unit, which will lay the groundwork for a British exit from the European Union.

Our group of 85 signatory organisations works across a wide spectrum of food issues, including farming, countryside, environment, fishing and marine environment, poverty, trade, animal welfare and public health, together representing the interests of millions of people. We met this week to discuss the implications of the EU Referendum for food and farming.

A large proportion of the UK’s current food, farming and fishery policies is covered by EU competence, and re-thinking this creates many opportunities. Better food, farming and trade policies can help to cut greenhouse gas emissions from farming and food industries by 80% by 2050, and promote healthier diets to combat heart disease, cancers, diabetes and obesity and to promote oral health. Such policies can also support a vibrant and diverse economy, good jobs and working conditions, ethical and sustainable production methods, international development, improved animal welfare, more farmland and marine wildlife and restored farmland biopersity, as well as enhancing the beauty of the countryside and protecting the environment (in particular fresh water and soils), while providing a safe and traceable food supply.

Crafting good food and farming policies is also essential to help heal the rift that has so far characterised the EU Referendum process, as well as to combat the disenfranchisement and distrust in the political process that so many of our fellow citizens have expressed.

We therefore suggest that the new Department, under your leadership, should:

Ensure, in concert with the devolved administrations, that fair, healthy, humane and environmentally sustainable food, farming, fishing and land management are central to the post EU Referendum strategy for the UK.

  • Food, farming and fishing policies, and the sectors’ compliance with strong environmental protections, designed explicitly to achieve public good, must be the bedrock principle for any post EU Referendum negotiations.
  • Public spending on subsidies, research or other support must be directly linked to public goods.
  • The role of migrant and seasonal labour in food production needs to be tackled head on.

Ensure that new trade agreements build on, and do not undermine, progress achieved over several decades and under several governments.

There are many examples, to name but a few: local and sustainable food in public sector food buying, which can help lead the way in investing in quality British production; environmental legislation that protects natural environments, wildlife and habitats; the living wage and better working conditions; millions of food jobs supported in the world’s poorest countries; food labelling and marketing controls; animal welfare standards; tackling food waste; support for organic production methods, and new approaches to reducing farm antibiotic use. While more progress is needed in all of these areas, we are seriously concerned that such considerations may be over-run by a drive for new trade deals at any cost, and pressures to de-regulate. Conducting Environmental and Health Impact Assessments as part of the preparation for new trade deals should be a critical step in the process.

We therefore urge you to ensure that:

1) The unit’s terms of reference include public health and sustainability.

2) Food, farming and fishing makes up one of the Options Papers being developed by your unit.

3) The unit includes officials with food, farming and fishing, public health and sustainability expertise, including from e.g. DEFRA, DfID, BIS, FSA, FSS and DH, and from the Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland governments and administrations.

4) You draw on expertise outside the civil service to support your fact-finding and development of options. We are ready to support you in this and our networks include some of the UK’s best academics on food policy, experts on key issues and other well-informed stakeholders.

5) Respect for scientific advice on environmental and public health matters is prioritised, for example when advising on environmental legislation and fishing quotas.

6) Consideration is given to the wealth of policy work that our organisations and others have done in recent years, to inform your food and farming Options Paper. Examples include:

7) Important principles, processes and legal requirements that are already enshrined in UK policy or have been upheld in EU negotiations, often with the strong support from the UK, are built upon. For example: the need for policy to further international development objectives; legislation to protect species and habitats and to ensure fishing at sustainable levels (Maximum Sustainable Yields – MSY); drives to reduce waste in commercial fisheries; climate change targets; the precautionary principle, and the Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030 for which the Cabinet Office oversees domestic implementation), especially to support the most economically vulnerable in the UK and internationally.

8) Important policy initiatives already underway are not further delayed, nor undermined, such as the Childhood Obesity Strategy; the Soft Drinks Industry Levy; the 25-year Environment Plan; implementation of the national pollinator strategy; and the devolution of power and responsibilities to UK cities and local administrations.

9) The highest standards of transparency in policy development are upheld, as this will be key to winning support and building public trust.

We would really value an opportunity to meet with you, at your earliest convenience, to discuss these issues and to explore how we can support the new unit in its important work.

Contact for correspondence:

Kath Dalmeny, Coordinator of Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming, email:

Yours sincerely (in alphabetical order by organisation),

  • Jenny Rosborough  Campaigns Manager Action on Sugar
  • Christopher Jones MBE, Coordinator, Agricultural Christian Fellowship
  • Jonathan Pauling, Chief Executive, Alexandra Rose Charity
  • Baroness Sue Miller, Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group: Agroecology
  • Sharon Hodgson MP, Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group: School Food
  • Emma Rose, Coordinator, Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics
  • Patti Rundall OBE, Policy Director, Baby Milk Action
  • Jacqui Mackay, National Coordinator, Banana Link
  • Dr Elizabeth Mitchell, Chair, Belfast Food Network
  • Dr Sue Christie Vice, Chair, Belfast Food Network
  • Pat Thomas Founder, Director, Beyond GM
  • Peter Brown, Director, Biodynamic Association
  • Katharine Jenner, Chief Executive, Blood Pressure UK
  • Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive, Campaign for the Protection of Rural England
  • James Treasure-Evans, International Policy Manager, Concern Universal
  • Professor Graham MacGregor, Chair, Consensus Action on Salt and Health
  • Philip Lymbery, Chief Executive, Compassion in World Farming
  • Sue Dibb, Coordinator, Eating Better Alliance
  • Ricarda A Steinbrecher, Co-Director, Econexus
  • Barbara Young, Co-Chair, Environmentalists for Europe
  • Stanley Johnson, Co-Chair, Environmentalists for Europe,
  • and Former Conservative MEP
  • Dr Mick Horton, Dean, Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK)
  • Professor Simon Capewell, Vice President for Policy, Faculty of Public Health
  • Barbara Crowther, Director, Policy & Public Affairs Fairtrade Foundation
  • Pippa Woods CBE, Chair, Family Farmers’ Association
  • Ian Eggington-Metters, Interim Director, Federation of City Farms &
  • Community Gardens
  • Niki Charalampopoulou, Managing Director, Feedback: The global food waste campaign
  • Helen Crawley, Coordinator, First Steps Nutrition Trust
  • Katie Palmer, Sustainable Food Cities Coordinator, Food Cardiff
  • Dan Crossley, Executive Director, Food Ethics Council
  • Anna Taylor, Executive Director, Food Foundation
  • Victoria Williams, Director, Food Matters
  • Professor Tim Lang, Founder, Food Research Collaboration, City University
  • Professor Corinna Hawkes, Chair, Food Research Collaboration, City University
  • Geoff Tansey, Curator, Food Systems Academy
  • Mark Driscoll, Head of Food, Forum for the Future
  • Jonathan Porritt, Co-Founder, Forum for the Future
  • Clare Oxborrow, Senior Food and Farming Campaigner, Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland)
  • Gareth Clubb, Director, Friends of the Earth Cymru
  • Joe Mann, Director and Food Teacher, Fun Kitchen
  • Lawrence Woodward, Director, Future Sustainability
  • James Campbell, Chief Executive, Garden Organic
  • Nick Dearden, Director, Global Justice Now
  • Liz O’Neill, Director, GM Freeze
  • John Sauven, Executive Director, Greenpeace
  • Oliver Dowding, Agricultural Spokesperson, Green Party of England and Wales
  • Professor Ralph Early, Professor of Food Industry, Harper Adams University (Food Science & Agri-Food Supply Chain Management)
  • Robin Ireland, Chief Executive, Health Equalities Group
  • Dr Richard Marsh, Chief Executive, Institute for Food, Brain and Behaviour
  • Professor Sylvia Tilford, President Elect, Institute of Health Promotion and Education
  • Emily Howgate, Coordinating Director, International Pole & Line Foundation
  • Allison Ogden-Newton, Chief Executive, Keep Britain Tidy
  • Ed Hamer, Spokesperson, Landworkers Alliance
  • Rosie Boycott, Chair, London Food Board, Greater London Authority
  • Jerry Percy, Executive Director, Low Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE)
  •  and Chief Executive New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association
  • Carmel McConnell MBE, Founder, Magic Breakfast
  • Carrie Hume, Director of Conservation and Campaigns, Marine Conservation Society (MCS)
  • Professor David Haslam, Chair, National Obesity Forum
  • Marc Stears, Chief Executive, New Economics Foundation
  • Pete Ritchie, Director, Nourish Scotland
  • Alan Schofield, Chairman, Organic Growers Alliance
  • Nic Lampkin, Director, Organic Research Centre
  • Paul Moore, Director, Organic Trade Board
  • John Meadley, Chair, Pasture Fed Livestock Association
  • Keith Tyrell, Director, Pesticides Action Network UK
  • Ruth West, Co-Founder / Director, Real Farming Trust
  • Sara Jayne Stanes, Chief Executive, Royal Academy of Culinary Arts
  • Alison Swan Parente, Chair, School of Artisan Food
  • Stephanie Wood, Director, School Food Matters
  • Dr Jonathan Rae, Head of College, Schumacher College at Dartington Hall Trust
  • Professor Annie Anderson, Chair, Scottish Cancer Prevention Network
  • Patrick Krause, Chief Executive, Scottish Crofting Federation
  • Paul Stuart Interim, Chief Executive, Send a Cow
  • Helen Browning, Chief Executive, Soil Association
  • Laura Stewart, Director, Soil Association Scotland
  • Caroline Bennett, Founder / Director, Sole of Discretion
  • Shane Holland, Executive Chairman, Slow Food in the UK
  • Rend Platings, Coordinator, Sugarwise
  • Kath Dalmeny, Chief Executive, Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming. Of note, Sustain coordinates the following alliance activities, involving many national and community organisations:
    • Better Jobs for Better Farming and Land Use
    • Campaign for Better Hospital Food
    • Campaign for a Sugary Drinks Duty
    • Children’s Food Campaign
    • Sustainable Fish Cities
  • Tom Andrews, Programme Manager, Sustainable Food Cities Network
  • Patrick Holden, Chief Executive / Founder, Sustainable Food Trust
  • Tom Wills, Policy Officer, Traidcraft
  • Richie Alford, Co-Chair, UK Food Group
  • Dr Angela Wright, Co-Chair, UK Food Group
  • Modi Mwatsama, Director of Policy & Global Health, UK Health Forum
  • Diana Holland, Assistant General Secretary for Food & Agriculture, Unite the Union
  • Dave Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON
  • Professor Kevin Morgan, Professor of Governance, Geography & Planning & Development University of Cardiff
  • Vicki Hird, Director of Policy & Campaigns, War on Want
  • Kate Allen, Executive Director of Science and Public Affairs, World Cancer Research Fund
  • Stephen Trotter, Director for England, Wildlife Trusts

Text of letter received by Sustain, in response to our July 2016 letter to David Davis MP (noting that the response is from David Jones MP).

Our ref: DJ00114
2 December 2016
Dear Ms Dalmeny,
Thank you for your letter of 14 July regarding the priorities of Sustain following the UK’s exit from the EU. I am responding on behalf of the Secretary of State and sincerely apologise for the delay.
The Government recognises the important contribution of the farming and food sectors to the UK economy. In particular, we recognise the expertise of your members across a range of food issues, including animal welfare and the marine environment.
You raise a number of priorities that your members have for the UK’s negotiations with the EU, including trade, land management, public health and the support for organic production methods. Let me assure you, the Department for Exiting the EU is working closely with colleagues across Government departments to ensure that we are talking and listening to businesses.
Our priority is to build a national consensus around our exit from the EU. We have already started a wide-ranging programme of engagement, listening to organisations, institutions and companies in as many sectors as possible to establish their priorities and understand their concerns, and also to hear what they think the opportunities are. We are therefore very grateful to you for taking the time to set out your members’ key priorities.
Thank you for your invite. We would very much like to hear your views on these important issues. I have passed your request on to my officials for consideration. If an opportunity becomes available, they will be in touch.
Rt Hon David Jones MP
Minister of State for Exiting the European Union

Brexit: 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!

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