News update, June 2017

Brexit discussions have continued apace in the world of food, farming and fishing, undeterred by the upheaval of the snap General Election (don’t worry, over soon!). Below we provide brief summaries, with links for further information. Please do join us for our Sustain Brexit Forum: Taking Stock event on 27th June – first item below – this will be an important opportunity to re-group, share information, and plan together for the important and likely game-changing period to come.

Kath Dalmeny & Ben Reynolds, Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming
www.sustainweb.org -- @UKSustain

N.B. We have done our best to give accurate information. However, rumours abound, a new Government is about to be appointed, and things keep changing! Please do keep on sharing news, information and insights, this has been hugely helpful over recent months, thank you.


Recent developments

Sustain Brexit Forum: Taking Stock, 27th June
Join Sustain’s Brexit Forum: Taking Stock on Tuesday 27th June 2017, 10am to 1pm in the Radnor Hall at the Wesleyan Chapel, Old Street, London. This is an opportunity to get together, assess manifesto promises and the political landscape in light of the General Election result; discuss the Great Repeal Bill following its introduction into parliament on 19th June in the Queen’s Speech (the same day as EU Brexit negotiations begin); share UK parliamentary and EU intelligence and opportunities; talk about our hopes for a Good Food Act (name tbc) and new Environment Act, and hear important updates from across our alliance. RSVP: kath@sustainweb.org 
Note: For those seeking relief from Brexit and the Election, you are warmly encouraged to stay on at the Wesleyan Chapel to enjoy 45 minutes of musical recital; it’s free, you may like to make a donation.

Beyond 2020: New farm policy
Our Sustainable Farming Campaign has launched ideas for a new, coherent farm policy post Brexit: press release here and full briefing here. These proposals – which cover post Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and other relevant policies – will be used as the basis for Sustain’s discussions and advocacy on future farm policy with the new Government, Sustain members and other stakeholders. Please get in touch with Sustainable Farming Campaign Coordinator Vicki Hird if you have comments or would like to get involved. The next Sustainable Farming Working Party meeting is on 19th June. Contact: vicki@sustainweb.org

Great Repeal Bill update
So much to share. We will provide more information at the Taking Stock meeting (above). We expect the Great Repeal Bill to be launched in parliament in the Queen’s Speech on 19th June; we assume a 2nd reading in July; perhaps to see the Bill enacted by end of 2017 or early 2018. How many holes it will contain, and how much scrutiny will be accepted, remain to be seen… The House of Commons Library Great Repeal Bill briefing is a helpful read in preparation.

The outcome of the Great Repeal Bill as enacted will set much of the pace and legal foundation for any collective ambitions we may have for the maintenance of standards across pretty much all of the issues that Sustain alliance members work on. General consensus across third-sector groups and others is that the priority for collective action now is to “bank” existing standards, strategies and principles, to ensure that there is no slip-back on food, health, environment, farming and fishing standards after the UK leaves the EU. This means that in the coming period, we must engage with Ministers, MPs and their teams in the next parliament to help them understand the issues and what’s at stake. We must also work with others to resist any attempt to give Government powers to change standards, strategies and principles without proper democratic scrutiny (except for minor amendments to enable effective transposition); ensure that any future changes must be made only through primary legislation; and that governance arrangements are either agreed to continue with existing EU processes, scientific and regulatory assessments and institutions, or are adequately replaced.

Alongside the Sustain alliance’s work on these matters, we also note that:

  • The Greener UK alliance is working in detail on the Great Repeal Bill and environmental protections, and Sustain is maintaining close links to ensure that our advocacy work is complementary and mutually reinforcing. We have a “working with” agreement with Greener UK to do so. Notably, Greener UK is developing a rather useful-looking online tracker to record policies, commitments and statements by Government over the coming period, on environmental issues. A similar shared resource on food, farming and fishing may be helpful – views welcome.
  • Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust has convened funders to invest in a Great Repeal Bill coordination function across many sectors, which will be undertaken by Unlock Democracy. We will share news when we know more, and Sustain will engage with this work on behalf of Sustain alliance members and the issues we work on.
  • Sustain has also been rightly reminded that whilst the Great Repeal Bill will fill our waking thoughts for months to come, we must not forget that the position of the EU 27 nations in the Brexit negotiations will frame much of what is possible, and may even determine the UK’s relationship to key standards, laws and institutions – with ‘full equivalence’ being one possible EU Brexit deal scenario. Two imminent examples are that the UK’s relationship to the European Court of Justice will get its first ‘trial run’ in Phase 1 negotiations over rights of EU citizens living in the UK (as signalled by EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier); also in Phase 1 will be decisions on the approach to Northern Ireland, for which border, agriculture, fisheries and environmental issues are likely to be contentious and illuminating. Phase 2 negotiations on ‘all the other stuff’ could begin as early as October 2017, so the Phase 1 negotiating period will set the pace and the next Government’s approach to a whole raft of important matters. Angela Merkel has signalled that she hopes Phase 1 will be complete by autumn 2017.

Opportunities for policy engagement
Across the period of the Great Repeal Bill, we also expect the possible or likely appearance of a new Trade Bill, Agriculture Bill and Marine Bill (if the Government is happy to reveal its hand on such issues early in the EU Brexit negotiations), and the possible or likely dusting-off and re-awakening of the nascent 25 Year Environment Plan and 25 Year Food and Farming Plan. The proposed ‘consultation’ on these latter 25 Year Plans was paused during General Election purdah, but may shuffle back into first gear shortly.

Meanwhile, the idea of a Policy Commission on the future of food and farming is still being developed under the leadership of Helen Browning of the Soil Association. Questions of a suitable Chair, secretariat coordinator and funding are currently being explored.

And what about opportunities to ‘build’ for the future? A new Food Act
The Great Repeal Bill, EU Brexit negotiation, new Acts of Parliament and 25-Year Plans will keep us all busy in the medium term. These will set the technical, legal and policy foundations for what may be possible for a better future for food, farming and fishing, and so rightly deserve our attention. However, we know that the Sustain alliance also has ambitions to use the disruption presented by Brexit to win a new ‘Food Act’ (name tbc), and our initial thinking is emerging – based on discussions with members and others. The coming period will be important for building the narrative of a better way forward among policy makers and in the media, as well as engagement of the public, industry, government and the third sector. Let’s use the coming year to cultivate this process. Contact: kath@sustainweb.org


Communicating our concerns

We’re collecting ‘specialist briefings’ to help us do so, hoping to bring the issues alive on key food, farming and fishing themes, with authoritative information and expert views on what’s at stake. Thank you to those who have contributed material so far. We plan to launch these shortly. If you would like to contribute, please get in touch: kath@sustainweb.org.

 

Political Party Conferences in Autumn 2017

Sustain is already planning a presence at the Labour Party conference, working with SERA. If you are planning party conference activities and would be interested to share news, collaborate, or have a Sustain alliance speaker at one of your events, get in touch: vicki@sustainweb.org (on farming-related themes); kath@sustainweb.org (on other Sustain themes).

 

A focus on Food Rights

Exciting news is that Sustain has just secured funding from the Baring Foundation to work – with several alliance members as partners – on Food Rights. We see this as a complementary strand to the Brexit work and efforts to “build” for the future. We are inspired by similar work being undertaken by our colleagues at Nourish Scotland. Nourish and Sustain have just become mutual ‘observer’ members, formalising our positive and supportive relationship on these and other important matters. More news on Food Rights shortly…

 

Manifesto engagement forges new links
As reported previously, we sent Sustain’s Manifesto for a Better Food Britain to all of the main political parties, and some of the proposals were adopted into manifesto promises. We have had warm responses from some parties and their research teams, and are cultivating new links for the next parliamentary session. See our comparison of party manifestos on food, farming and fishing issues. See also Greener UK’s analysis focusing on the environment); commentary on animal welfare commitments; and information about manifesto commitments on public health.

Sustain’s Children’s Food Campaign has also been active, with working party members, School Food Plan colleagues, Henry Dimbleby from Leon, and the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, in objecting to the proposed scrapping of Universal Infant Free School Meals, as proposed in the Conservative Party Manifesto. Such work seems likely to continue after the Election.


Other Brexit-related news from the last month

Note: Several members have published reports on farm and Brexit-related policy – we are preparing a web page to bring these together and promote them. Hence they are not listed below – let us know if there’s anything you would like us to include.

Brexit watch – House of Commons library provides briefing papers
A useful source of information for food workers and campaigners trying to keep an authoritative tab on how withdrawal from the EU will affect food and food policy.  

New House of Lords Report on food, farming and Brexit
Sustain comments on the EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee report. The report looks at the implications of Brexit for UK agriculture and food, particularly the implications of leaving the EU's Common Agriculture Policy and the Single Market.

Nourish Scotland calls on political parties to guarantee Scottish powers

Nourish Scotland wants all parties contesting the election to safeguard the powers that would allow the country to pursue a more sustainable food policy.

Keep trade fair after Brexit
A petition submitted to the government supports the argument that the world's poorest farmers must not be penalised by new trading arrangements after the UK leaves the EU.

President Macron to defend French fishing after Brexit

French President Macron has stated that he will defend the right of French fishermen to catch fish in British waters after Brexit.

Uncertainty surrounds the future of chemical regulation
Parliament's environmental watchdog, the Environmental Audit Committee, has produced a report highlighting the confusion surrounding the future of UK chemical regulation post Brexit, and calling on the Government to clarify the situation as a matter of urgency.

Manifesto for a post-Brexit food industry
The Food and Drink Federation's five-point proposal calls, among other things, for a Government promise that there will be no more nutrient taxes.  

Help halve the EU's mountain of food waste

Help Friends of the Earth and This is Rubbish campaign for the European Council to accept ambitious food waste reduction targets, which will set EU food waste policy for the next 14 years.


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