News update, March 2017

Scroll down to the bottom to read about new Brexit related papers, campaigns and blogs from Greener UK, Wildlife & Countryside LINK, Farm & Wildlife Advisory Group, Green Alliance, Euractiv, Pesticides Action Network and the Food Research Collaboration.

We’ve been trying to digest (pardon the pun – comes with the territory) these and many of the other ideas and developments stemming from Brexit that touch upon ‘our’ sea and soil and all that springs from them. Before you gravitate to the updates below, we thought you might be interested in these blogs by Sustain colleagues:

  • The Great Repeal Bill is already as full of holes as a colander: Kath Dalmeny, Chief Exec of Sustain shares insights on the Great Repeal Bill and what we must do together as an alliance to protect existing standards for food, farming and fishing.
  • Imagine the death of UK farms: Is it an exaggeration to predict the death of the family farm in England? A toxic combination of tough farm policies post-Brexit and ‘open all borders’ trade deals could conceivably kill off small and medium-sized farms: blog by Sustainable Farming Campaign Coordinator, Vicki Hird.
  • Stand up for farm and food workers: Brexit has put the spotlight on migrant workers in the food chain and particularly on farm work. But serious problems with labour standards and inequalities in the food chain were evident well before June 2016: blog by Vicki Hird.

Protecting existing standards

Lead Sustain contact: kath@sustainweb.org

  • Sustain convened a Time for an Act? meeting in February, working with alliance members to coordinate responses on policy and legislative challenges associated with Brexit. We have started to draft a ‘Great Repeal Bill as if healthy and sustainable food, farming and fishing mattered’ to inform further discussion.
  • The Great Repeal Bill is a colander full of holes: Kath Dalmeny of Sustain provides an update on what we must do together as an alliance – and why – to protect existing standards for food, farming and fishing
  • The Wildlife & Countryside Link legal strategy group, working with Greener UK and in which Sustain is participating, is continuing to bring together environmental groups to discuss collective responses to policy and legislative challenges associated with Brexit, including the Great Repeal Bill
  • The EU Workers’ Rights (maintenance of standards) Bill, tabled by Melanie Onn MP and supported by the public sector union UNISON. It is due for its second reading on 24 March 2017
  • UK Environmental Protection (Maintenance of EU Standards) Bill has been tabled by Geraint Davies MP. A copy of the bill is not yet available
  • The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust is discussing collaboration on the Great Repeal Bill across sectors; Sustain is participating
  • Which? (formerly Consumers’ Association) convened a high-level roundtable at the beginning of March, attended by government, industry and civil-society organisations (including Sustain). Sobering discussions highlighted the severe business risks due to be experienced by the food and farming industries from currency fluctuations, tariff changes, and regulatory uncertainties associated with Brexit
  • The UK’s Ministry of Justice has decided that people bringing legal cases on environmental issues may no longer have their costs capped and could face legal bills of millions of pounds. ClientEarth, Friends of the Earth and the RSPB have launched a Judicial Review. Please get in touch if your organisation may be able to add your name to the efforts to defeat this decision, which could otherwise undermine access to justice, contact: kath@sustainweb.org

New standards to secure a future for healthy, fair, humane and sustainable food, fishing and farming

Lead Sustain contact: kath@sustainweb.org

  • Time for an Act? On 22 February 2017, Sustain convened a meeting of civil society organisations and academics, from across the range of issues covered by alliance members, to discuss the need and opportunities for a new legal framework for food, farming and fishing, beyond Brexit.
  • The Greener UK coalition of 13 major environmental organisations, including WWF, the National Trust, RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts, launched its manifesto on 22 February, calling on the UK government to restore and enhance the environment as part of its plans for leaving the European Union. This followed a House of Lords report the previous week, which identified the risk of a vacuum in the oversight and enforcement of environment legislation, and the challenge of effectively maintaining the extensive existing environmental protections through the Repeal Bill.
  • The Wildlife & Countryside Link legal strategy group, working with Greener UK and in which Sustain is participating, is continuing to bring together environmental groups to discuss collective approaches to a new legal framework beyond Brexit, including emerging plans for a new Environment Act, as recommended by the Law Commission and Environmental Audit Committee.
  • The Food Research Collaboration is coordinated by the Centre for Food Policy at City University London, to facilitate joint working by academics and civil society to improve the UK food system. Sustain is a partner in a new three-year phase of work, part of which will focus on Brexit – we are discussing how best to use expert seminars to investigate and co-create solutions for good governance of our food system. The excellent FRC Food Thinkers series of lectures continue to be made available online.
  • Together, Traidcraft, Christian Aid, the Trade Justice Movement, the Fairtrade Foundation and Oxfam are calling on the UK government to set a gold standard for development-friendly post-Brexit trade policy. The UK currently imports around £34bn worth per year of goods from some of the poorest countries in the world, a significant proportion of which is food. Without action by the UK government to uphold preferential market access arrangements with developing countries, approximately £1bn in taxes could be added to imports from these places. This would significantly increase the costs of products, potentially pushing farmers into poverty and reversing progress on labour rights and wages.

Ensuring voices are heard: Consultation and representation

Lead Sustain contacts: as listed, where relevant

  • Future of farming policy – The Sustain Farming Working Party has been working on a suite of measures for post Brexit farm policy to replace the CAP. Get in touch with vicki@sustainweb.org if you want to comment on the current draft ideas and get involved. We have also been looking at how the WTO and Trade rules will impact on farming and food. See write up here.
  • Environment Green Paper and Defra 25 Year Food and Farming plan are both still not forthcoming, despite expectations for both to be released in February.
  • Policy Commission (working title): Initiative being led by Helen Browning of the Soil Association; Kath Dalmeny supporting this for the Sustain alliance as part of the steering group, along with other colleagues and Sustain members such as National Trust, Royal Society for Public Health; RSPB; Soil Association; Which?. The idea is to establish a forum and process for developing a positive future vision for food and farming, as well as health and wellbeing, beyond Brexit; offering new ideas and helping people work together better. The idea draws inspiration from the Curry Commission of the early 2000s (on which Helen served, which was then Chaired by Lord Curry of Kirkharle, who spoke at Sustain's Annual Gathering in January 2017). Initial meetings of the steering group have been held, currently focusing on who might be a suitable Chair, and starting to draft Terms of Reference and an open and transparent recruitment process for Commissioners, to be drawn from industry, policy and civil society. We will continue to circulate updates via this Sustain Brexit Forum news-list. Contact: kath@sustainweb.org
  • Defra is still developing its marine strategy, with no updates to mention. Contact: ruth@sustainweb.org for more information.
  • Sustain staff were proud to stand in solidarity with diverse communities, and express solidarity at this time of uncertainty, by participating in the One Day Without Us campaign on 20th February 2017.
  • The latest Food Issues Census, undertaken by the Food Ethics Council and backed by funding organisations, was published in March. It examines UK civil society capacity for work on food. Sustain and Soil Association were identified by respondents as the organisations that most works in partnership with others, and collaboration was identified by both respondents and funders as an important theme for pooling energy and resources effectively. Never more relevant than now, as we work together on Brexit!
  • Better ‘framing’ of healthy and sustainable food, fishing and farming. No updates since last newsletter. Lead Sustain contact: ben@sustainweb.org

Other Brexit-related news from the last month

Lords sub-committee publishes report on impact of Brexit on trade with EU

Customs admin and delays a serious concern for firms after Brexit, a new report finds. The Sub-Committee published a report on the implications of Brexit for the UK’s trade in goods with the EU, considering six goods sectors including food and beverages.

Over 140 Civil society groups call for reform of European agricultural policies

Sustain, along with many of our members and colleague organisations, has signed up to a new statement calling for a radical reform of European agriculture and related policies.

Lords Committee looks at Brexit impact on labour market

The Lords Economic Affairs Committee is calling for written evidence on the importance of EU workers to the UK economy, and on what the impacts might be if immigration from the EU were to be curbed.

Expert Roundtable on WTO farming and Brexit

Sustain, Friends of the Earth and RSPB invited members to a meeting in February to explore the implications of Brexit to food and farming and the role of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) where rules on trade are set by its 164 members.

Farming group set out vision for British farming

The South West branch of the Farm & Wildlife Advisory Group have produced a vision for British Agricultural and Environmental Policy.

PAN to MPs: don't dilute the pesticide regulations

PAN UK, Britain's leading campaign group on pesticides, is asking for support in its campaign to safeguard the regulations that limit the use of harmful agrichemicals.

Your lunch depends on EU migrants

A new blogpost on the Food Research Collaboration website argues that the EU workers our food supply depends on must be allowed to stay here -- but on better terms than at present.  

Henry VIII enters Brexit debate

A useful contribution to expertise on the Brexit process from Wildlife and Countryside Link explains (among many other things) how the Great Repeal Bill could contain devices that would allow the law to be altered later without due scrutiny.

Leadsom vows to protect food trade with EU

Addressing the National Farmers' Union conference, the Defra Secretary laid out the five principles she thinks should frame food and farming post-Brexit, and vowed both to protect food trade with the EU and pursue deals with other partners.

Concerns raised over devolved decisions on farming after Brexit

The issue of who gets the budget and controls farm policy is proving highly contentious with the Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, suggesting in a recent interview that Holyrood may be denied the power to decide their own support regime for farmers, despite agriculture being wholly devolved.

Race to the bottom in food trade with the US?

Beef from cattle implanted with growth hormones, chlorine-washed chicken, and unlabelled genetically modified foods are among the undesirable outcomes that could result from a lax trade deal with the US, warns a veteran campaigner.

EU farm subsidies to be slashed, post Brexit

EU farm commissioner Phil Hogan has stated that  European farmers will have their direct payments cut after the UK leaves the EU,  a revelation that will further destabilise farmers' futures across Europe.  

Private funding to support farmers

A new report from the environmental think-tank Green Alliance argues that the food industry should pay for the restoration and preservation of the natural assets food production depends on.  

National Farmers' Union conference upbeat on Brexit

1,400 farming delegates gathered at the NFU 2017 conference to hear ministers and officials present a vision they believe will make agriculture robust outside the EU -- as long as Government makes the right decisions.

Uncertain fate of PDO foods after Brexit

A report on foods with EU protected status encapsulates the contradictions that surround the Brexit process. 


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