This week’s proceedings in Parliament are both riveting and dismaying, for anyone seeking certainty about the future of our food, farming and fishing. To understand the Brexit options now facing the UK and our elected representatives in Parliament, we commend this guide on ‘Seven Brexit endgame scenarios’ from The UK in a Changing Europe at UCL: and a range of commentary and publications from the Institute for Government.
Sustain will continue to argue hard against ‘No Deal’ due to the severe risks to food and farming and we encourage you to do the same. Our most recent piece on this is here. If you feel strongly and would like to act, here are five practical things you could do:
- Write up what a No Deal would do to your sector/organisation and post it on your website
- Tweet/gram/Facebook about it, linking back to your piece, and make sure to use a hashtag that is being used for the political discussion of the day. (Copy in Sustain and we’ll retweet you)
- Repost your link any time you see any relevant discussion online
- Send it to any journalists interested in your sector or organisation
- Look for other organisations are tweeting and like/retweet them. (Eg Sustain, Soil Association)
I am being asked to participate in groups considering Brexit Food Resilience in the event of ‘no deal’ or potentially other ‘deal’ scenarios. Such groups are increasingly cropping up at local authority level, partly in response to the Food Research Collaboration’s Why local authorities should prepare Food Brexit Plans, partly arising out of concerns raised by members of the Sustainable Food Cities network. In this context, Sustain is focusing in particular on food prices and implications for people already living in food poverty, and for public sector catering organisations that serve children, hospital patients and care home residents. Get in touch if you’d like to know more.
Sustainable Food and Farming (Agriculture Bill)
As noted in a blog by Vicki Hird, the Agriculture Bill is rolling fitfully through parliament and will, barring shocks, get a Report Stage debate and vote in the Commons at the end of January, when where we will see if the government has conceded any areas. Amendments we wanted are tabled –on budgets, trade, health, agri-environment, workers and fair dealing - but debate will be short. It will then go to the Lords for scrutiny and we are lobbying MPs and Lords hard. Sustain’s Bill session at Oxford Real Farming Conference was packed, lively and gained coverage. We are also tracking the development of the Environmental Land Management scheme -see blog.
Farm animal welfare should be on food labels
Sustain member the RSPCA says that it should be mandatory for meat labels to include information on the welfare of farm animals.
Michael Gove's ‘pipeline of support’ for farmers – how are the tests and trials going?
Alongside all the changes ahead due to Brexit, a new farm support scheme will hit major development phase in 2019. Secretary of State for Defra Michael Gove describes it as supporting the ‘Fourth Agricultural Revolution’ and promised that the government “will provide farmers and other land managers with a pipeline of income to supplement the money they make from food production, forestry and other business activities."
Sustainable Fish (Fisheries Bill)
The first fishing bill for a generation and Government’s flagship piece of post-Brexit fishing policy – finished committee stage before Christmas. A few positive amendments were tabled but all were rejected so all eyes are now on the report stage. The report stage is expected before the end of January but date still TBC. At this stage, MPs can propose amendments and these are voted on by MPs.
Sustainable Food Partnerships from across the UK have been writing to their MPs – with help from Sustain - to call for support for amendments to make the Fisheries Bill stronger on sustainable fishing, investing in science, fairness and to make the language in the Bill stronger overall.
Michael Gove wants more fairness and more legal duties for fishing. Sounds Good!
Ruth Westcott considers news of a 'bolstered' Fishing Bill: If Government is serious about fairness, it's time to rethink quota allocation, rebuild stocks as quickly as possible, and make fishing fairer. But well done on funding.
The next Greener UK quarterly coalition meeting will take place 14 February. This meeting comes at a critical moment in the Brexit process, after the meaningful vote and before Brexit day in March. In terms of legislation, the Agriculture Bill, Environment Bill, Fisheries Bill and Trade Bill will all have progressed, meaning there could be lots to talk about. Contact Patrick Killoran: firstname.lastname@example.org
Several members of the Greener UK alliance have come out with strong messages opposing ‘no deal’ Brexit. See Friends of the Earth’s call for a ‘no deal’ Brexit to be taken off the table.
Unregulated pesticides could pose major risk to human health after Brexit
Sustain member PAN UK say that the UK is woefully unprepared to regulate pesticide use after Brexit which poses major risks to environment and human health.
Food Standards and International Trade (Trade Bill)
The Trade Bill, which is preparing the way for post-Brexit trade deals, will move to Committee Stage in the House of Lords on Monday 21 January. Sustain is supporting calls from trade justice colleagues for members to support amendments which provide for transparency, Parliament to set a mandate for negotiations, and ensure parliamentarians can approve or reject the final agreements, as well as ensure independent impact assessments and public consultation. Peers have also proposed a range of measures to prevent future trade deals from lowering current standards around the environment, human rights and public health. Please encourage any friends and colleagues in the House of Lords to support those amendments.
Food is top topic in future trade deal consultations
The consultation into future trade deals was the ‘biggest consultation that any British Government has undertaken’, Liam Fox told the International trade Select Committee last month (6 December). More than 600,000 responses were received to the autumn 2018 consultations. He briefed the MPs that the United States consultation had generated the most responses and that food standards ‘was an issue raised’.
The Federation of Wholesale Distributors warns that the government may have to stockpile essential foods on a “triage” system if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
International Trade Committee calls for trade transparency
A new report from parliament's International Trade Committee calls for an inclusive, transparent, and democratic UK trade policy. Sustain submitted evidence to the inquiry showing how these principles are vital for better food and farming.
National Food Strategy
Brexit and the new UK Agriculture Bill, Fisheries Bill and trade policy have been dominating our thoughts. But let’s not forget that Defra Secretary of State Michael Gove has made tantalising references to a new National Food Strategy, which has so far received little policy or media attention. If such a process happens, it would be the first UK Food Strategy since the end of World War II. Sustain’s Annual Gathering in December 2018 focused on the promised Food Strategy, with presentations by a range of member organisations, and we were lucky to have Henry Dimbleby in attendance, who has been tasked by Defra Secretary of State Michael Gove with developing the strategy, who provided helpful responses and insights about the wide range of issues to be covered by the strategy – from personal health and well-being to the environmental impact of food production. Informal notes will be circulated separately to Sustain member organisations.
Alison Ismail, Acting Director of the Agri-Food Chain at Defra was a panellist at a Which? panel discussion this week on the Future of Food. (more below). She told the audience, “Our food strategy has got to be about the long term... It shouldn't just be something that gets us over the shock of an EU exit.” She was asked by Dan Crossley of the Food Ethics Council about how we could all ensure that Henry Dimbleby (Defra Non Executive Director, who is leading the Food Strategy work) gets the right support from other government departments to do the best job on the food strategy. She said: “My advice to influence the food strategy best is to firstly, engage through regular meetings with government departments. Henry Dimbleby is keen to engage with audiences and hear views beyond those you would usually hear from."
Food, Farming and Countryside Commission
Progress update: The RSA's Food, Farming and Countryside Commission
Sustain's chief executive Kath Dalmeny sits as a Commissioner on the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission coordinated by the RSA. This page provides a progress update, December 2018.
Sustain members’ news and events
Discussing a bittersweet Brexit (Wednesday 23 January. London)
With Brexit moving so quickly UK food and farming could change more now and more quickly than in the last 70 years. Sustain member the Centre for Food Policy are holding a Food Thinkers seminar to discuss the latest.
Gove should not use gene editing as a ‘silver bullet’
Sustain member the Soil Association responds to Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s suggestion that British scientists and farmers could “lead the way” on gene editing after the UK leaves the EU.
Sustain members Which? hosted a discussion on 15 January entitled the #FutureofFood, in order to debate food safety and standards as we leave the EU. Joining Chair Adam Leyland, Group Editor of The Grocer, were Which?’s Strategic Policy Partner Sue Davies, Professor Chris Elliot, President of the NFU Minette Batters, journalist Jay Rayner, Coop’s head of food Cathryn Higgs, and Alison Ismail — Acting Director, Agri-Food Chain at Defra, supporting Henry Dimbleby on his work on the National Food Strategy. Which? live tweeted the event so you can read updates here.
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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