Many of you will have read the Government’s Brexit White Paper released yesterday. We produced a quick response, but the paper no doubt deserves more digestion and dissection. The general response from those we’ve heard from is that while the smattering of terms like healthy and sustainable, and a commitment to the Climate Change Act, are cause for optimism, there is the danger that they don’t translate to the detailed policies to come. We are in discussion with a wide range of member organisations and others about how to respond, particularly in relation to the Great Repeal Bill (to help “bank” the standards we already have) and to future legislation (to “build” for the future).
I also attach the notes from our Brexit-focused Sustain Annual Gathering in January and public debate on Brexit food, farming and fishing, with Lord Curry providing a keynote and a host of Sustain members and friends responding.
Below we list some of the other activity going on throughout the alliance – there’s a lot going on so we’ve tried to keep it brief! If you want to be put in touch with those organisations mentioned, then please let me know.
Deputy Chief Executive, Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming
Protecting existing standards
- Environmental standards: Green Alliance and Link have been identifying EU standards and protections that will not transpose easily via the Great Repeal Act, and may be lost, and discussing how to respond. Sustain is involved in these discussions (see below).
- Marine: Green Alliance and Sustain Alliance groups are developing positions and advocacy work. Much at stake in terms of stock data, scientific basis of marine and conservation policies, including fishing to Maximum Sustainable Yield, and inevitable haggling over quota. Defra has not yet built in action on the ‘sustainable consumption’ side.
- Workers’ rights: Unison backing a Bill by Melanie Onn MP to enshrine EU standards in UK law. Brexit White Paper also prioritises this, but without yet detail of how, so we will need to see if the legislative protections are robust enough.
- Food standards (safety and quality): Unison on the case with meat inspection; Consumers’ Association examining implications, in discussion with government, industry and third sector, Sustain is participating; MPs expressed concerns in Article 50 debate – food standards issues seem to have special public and media traction.
- Deregulation agenda more widely: NEF coordinating a group to track and respond.
- One Day Without Us - On Monday 20 February, New Europeans, the3million and Unison are organising a mass lobby in Parliament, with other events happening across the UK to guarantee the rights of residence of EU citizens living in the UK, called One Day Without Us.
New legislation to secure a future for healthy and sustainable food, fishing and farming
- Greener UK (Green Alliance) and Link working on Great Repeal Bill (to “bank” important principles of existing EU legislation and international conventions such as Aarhus) and on potential new environmental framework legislation. Sustain participating in discussions due to overlap with ‘food, farming and fishing’.
- Sustain exploring the potential for legislation to achieve healthy and sustainable food, farming and fishing – and will seek views from a broad range of NGOs and legal/advocacy/parliamentary advisors keen to pursue. Coordination needed, as there are several relevant third-sector and MP-led strands already kicking off (e.g. agroecology bill; workers’ rights bill; Groceries Code Adjudicator; environmental framework legislation) as well as responses needed to government initiatives (Agriculture Act, Marine Act, Defra 25-Year Food, Farming (and Fishing?) Plan, and 25-Year Environment Plan). Any immediate views please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, but we will report progress next month and seek views throughout this group in due course.
Consultation and representation
- Environment Green Paper due out February (delayed several times already).
- Defra 25 Year Food and Farming plan delayed (again) – likely to include fishing; devolved administration issues are complex.
- Defra looking at marine strategy, and starting to consult – mainly with industry so far, but reaching out tentatively to third-sector conservation groups, which Sustain is encouraging.
- Policy Commission – Soil Association leading on this, good progress with potential backers.
- Giving voice to those under-represented: Sustain have had interest from various organisations looking to do events to get the views of smaller farmers, fishers and rural communities, about Brexit food, farming and fishing policy – and we’re keen to see whether there is potential to coordinate this. It could feed in well to the Policy Commission (above). This could be expanded to seek views from other marginalised communities e.g. through the UK Food Poverty Alliance and End Hunger UK campaign.
- Brexit food business forum – Food Ethics Council, Forum for the Future, Sustain and Soil Association are discussing how best to engage food businesses to understand concerns and find common ground for future policy lobbying (building on Sustain’s third-sector Brexit Forum held in November 2016).
Better ‘framing’ of healthy and sustainable food, fishing and farming
- Lots of conversations in train about this; Sustain has had input from a few different organisations in how we might develop some common responses and messaging particularly for media work. NEF have also been gathering ideas around narrative development. Sustain are now considering how best to share these ideas with the wider group. Contact Ben@sustainweb.org if you are interested in this area.
Other Brexit-related news from the last month
EFRA Select Committee inquiry on labour constraints in the food sector
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has launched Feeding the Nation: Labour Constraints, an inquiry into the challenges to the food supply chain from shortages of workers. The Committee invites evidence on the ability of the UK food production chain to source enough workers to produce affordable food and grow their businesses.
Thinking out of the (green) box on a new design for farming support
If you had £200 to spend on food each year what would you spend it on? That is roughly how much each family of four spends on current subsidies for farmers and the food sector. Has anyone asked taxpayers how they want that money spent?
UK meat exporters seek new pastures, post-Brexit
UK meat producers are looking both east and west as they plan to break into lucrative US and Chinese markets -- an ambition sharpened by the prospect of leaving the EU.
Parliamentary inquiry on Brexit and agriculture announced
Submissions are invited to a short inquiry on the likely impacts of Brexit on agriculture, to be conducted by the House of Lords EU, Energy and Environment Sub-Committee.
Organic growers' gathering will debate the impacts of Brexit
The theme of this year's Organic Producers' Conference, which takes place from 1 - 2 February at Aston University in Birmingham, will be 'Rising to the challenge: Practical organic farming solutions for an uncertain future'.
Small farming is beautiful
A policy framework from the Landworkers' Alliance makes the case for ending discrimination against small-scale farmers and including them permanently in agricultural planning.
Sustain looks forward to alliance priorities for 2017
Sustain’s Brexit-themed Annual Gathering took place on 17 January, the day that PM Theresa May gave her long-awaited speech on the principles on which the UK will negotiate our departure from the EU and the European Single Market. Sustain's coordinator Kath Dalmeny looks forward to our alliance priorities for 2017.
Defra's Brexit plans to date: large billboards will be abolished
Secretary of State for Defra Andrea Leadsom's speech to the Oxford Farming Conference was seen as an opportunity for her to share her department's thinking on farming post-Brexit. In the event, it was long on rhetoric, but short on specifics.
£5,000 for every farmer
A proposal to revolutionise farm subsidies, by providing a single, standard payment to everyone who farms at least one hectare, comes from Global Justice Now and the New Economics Foundation.
Farming for food and nature
Like a pebble thrown into a pond, the ripple effects of a reformed agriculture could benefit farmers, consumers, wildlife and the natural environment we all depend on, now and into the future.
MPs say no to zombie legislation - EAC report on Brexit and environment
Read our response to the publication of the Environmental Audit Committee report on The Future of the natural Environment after the EU Referendum.
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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