News update - 1 February 2019
Sustain Brexit Forum news update
This week the Institute for Government released another excellent Brexit report which you can read here. It doesn’t make for happy reading. In their view, the Government will ‘face major challenges in passing the required legislation’ on agriculture, fisheries and trade, and will also be unable to mitigate fully the major negative impacts on these areas of a No Deal Brexit.
The BBC Food programme investigated the possible impact of No Deal on our food supply chain. Riverford founder and Sustain friend Guy Singh-Watson told them it would be devastating and that they would breach their banking covenants within two weeks. Other voices were more upbeat, with the Adam Smith Institute arguing (erroneously in our view) cheap food was good for consumers (and if farmers fail, so be it) and others pointing out that Brexit might encourage more innovation in production here in the UK.
Meanwhile, next week’s order of parliamentary business is practically empty; Theresa May seeks a fresh round of talks with the EU; major supermarkets warn of empty shelves; and the United States lobbyists are waiting in hope that the UK will leave the customs union and single market, and lower our food standards. Sustain continues to inform and warn about the risks of a No Deal – you can read our factual Q & A here.
Food and Farming (Agriculture Bill)
The Agriculture Bill is still delayed with no date set yet for the MP report stage but likely to be later in February – 2 month later than planned. So there is still time to email your MP to let them know you want them to turn up at the debate and support amendments - to promote agro-ecology, public health, fairer trading and more. We have updates and briefings on the Agriculture Bill pages here and a new blog explores the state of play on the new Environmental land Management scheme being developed as post Brexit farm support. After Report Stage the bill will immediately have its 3rd reading then pass to the House of Lords for scrutiny. (Vicki Hird)
Landworkers’ Alliance successfully lobbies with others for amendments to the Agriculture Bill
Over 3000 members and supporters of The Landworkers’ Alliance have written to support amendments to the Agriculture Bill.
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." ***Update: Since publishing this blog Defra have circulated a spreadsheet listing the proposals they are bringing forward in phase of the tests and trials. There are some good proposals covering many issues we care about but also gaps. Defra are looking to fill the gaps and are still welcoming proposals up to the 1 April 2019.***
Vicki has written a blog for the ARC2020 site, talking readers through the Agriculture Bill which is set to replace the Common Agricultural Policy. What are the implications? What further amendments are needed? You can read it here
Fish (Fisheries Bill)
On 21st January, the EFRA Committee released a fairly damning review of the Fisheries Bill. They recommend amending the Bill to a) add a commitment to fishing at sustainable levels by 2020, b) allocate quota more fairly, c) invest in scientific research to help tackle discarding, and d) clarify the amount and priorities for funding. The report echoes many of the concerns of Sustain, Greener UK, other NGOs, scientists and the fishing industry. (Ruth Westcott)
The UK's top fish and chip shop has been crowned, but could a no-deal Brexit spell the end of Cod and Chip Friday?
Last week saw the annual National Fish and Chip Awards, and everyone at Sustainable Fish Cities sends their congratulations to Krispies in Exmouth who have scooped this year's top award.
Cross-party EFRA committee raises concerns about post-Brexit fishing policy
Despite an ‘ambitious approach’ the Fisheries Bill is not expected to ensure the UK delivers on international commitments or safeguard the long-term sustainability of the industry, and may ‘marginalise smaller vessels’. See Sustain's response to the Committee's report.
International Trade (Trade Bill)
Last week peers voted that the Trade Bill cannot proceed further until ministers provide enough detail on parliamentary involvement in future trade arrangements. They also strongly voiced complaints about the lack of assurances on food safety and animal welfare. Meanwhile the UK government has started to sign replacements for some EU trade agreements, although there has been no parliamentary scrutiny of these and they are unlikely to actually be voted on. So far agreements have been signed with Switzerland, Chile and the Eastern & Southern Africa region (covering Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles and Zimbabwe). Trade justice colleagues note that our total trade is £590.5bn, of which £318bn is with the EU. The Chile deal is worth £1.8bn. (Orla Delargy)
UK cannot trade on WTO terms after no-deal Brexit, say EU law experts
The UK may face seven-year wait for frictionless trade under WTO rules if it leaves the EU without a deal reports the Guardian today (Monday 28 January)
Trump pressed by US agribusiness to force UK to lower food standards after Brexit
American agribusiness is demanding that US trade negotiators push the UK into scrapping regulations on pesticides, genetically-modified crops, chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-grown meat, according to a report from Unearthed.
On 30 January the EFRA Committee took evidence on the Draft Environmental Bill. You’ll find a transcript of the session on their website soon.
Other Brexit-related news from the last month
Food stockpiling in 'triage' system if there’s no-deal Brexit
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.
The chief executives of Asda, Sainsbury’s, Co-op, Marks & Spencer, Lidl and Waitrose today (28 January) co-signed a letter warning about the risks of disruption to the food supply chain in the event of a no deal Brexit.
Radio 4’s Farming Today programme discussed the possible impact on food prices of a No Deal Brexit this morning (Monday 28 January). Guy Watson, joint owner of Riverford was asked what impact any delays in trade would have on his business.
And in other news…
In a detailed feature, Guardian journalist Fiona Harvey explores how much more food and land we may need and the options for feeding the world in the future. She looks at the implications for using different technologies and farm systems from urban farming to organic to drones. Vicki Hird from Sustain and Sustain members provided considerable input to this important piece.
Vicki Hird, food and farming co-ordinator at Sustain: “The Adam Smith Institute suggests that after Brexit the UK should simply remove all tariffs on food, casually and carelessly acknowledging that this would put UK farmers out of business. These comments are an insult to our farming communities. He says he argues for consumers but what he is proposing would wipe out the livelihoods not just of farmers, but farm workers and food producers all along the supply chain. It would destroy rural cohesion, devastate our rural communities and change irrevocably our much-loved rural landscapes.
Sustain members’ news and events
Sustain co-signed a Friends of the Earth submission to the International Trade Committee about the impact of UK-EU arrangements on wider UK trade policy. In it, FoE argues that the UK’s new trade policy “should prioritise environmental sustainability, guarantee environmental protections and foreground transparency and scrutiny in its development and application.” The submission will be published by the Committee in due course, but if you can’t wait until then to read it, do get in touch with Kierra.Box@foe.co.uk.