News update, October 2017
Every week seems to bring some major new Brexit-related development highly relevant to the Sustain Brexit Forum, working together for better food, farming and fishing.
The latest is that Secretary of State for Defra Michael Gove is reportedly seeking to secure as early an exit as possible from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The information came via Scotland Office Under Secretary of State Lord Ian Duncan, at a meeting of NFU Scotland in Perthshire. He described the UK remaining in the CAP for a transition period as a “worst-case scenario”. As previously confirmed by Government, the farm subsidy budget would anyway be retained at the current level until 2022. Meanwhile arrangements for any fishery funding and other support are still not clear, but may (we hear) be rolled into a new UK Shared Prosperity Fund (possibly this) managed by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). As ever, gossip abounds, so please do keep on sharing insights so that we can build a clearer picture together.
Whatever the course of such high politics, our food standards and food industry still look set to face a ‘perfect storm’ from rising food prices, regulatory uncertainties, greatly diminished capacity of food inspectors and standards bodies, and likely challenges from international trade deals with countries working to lower food standards than our own. In October, Sustain and the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health convened a meeting of food standards specialists who work in environmental health, food safety, customs and border checks, meat hygiene, pesticide and chemical controls, trading standards and consumer protection. Their comments informed a critical analysis published by Sustain, as our submission to the EFRA Committee enquiry into trade in food. Read the blog and download the submission here: UK food standards set to face 'perfect storm'.
Sustain staff have been especially busy over the past month, meeting with MPs and parliamentary researchers of all political hues, as well as farming minister George Eustice. Thank you so much for all of the insights, evidence and comments you have shared along the way, which have helped to make these important conversations productive. We’re also pleased to report that Orla Delargy has joined us to work on Brexit-related press and communications. Orla has previously worked as Joint Head of Campaigns for the Department of Education (under Michael Gove) and as Head of Communications for Leon Restaurants (working with Henry Dimbleby and Sustain successfully to champion the School Food Plan and Universal Infant Free School Meals). We are delighted to welcome her to the Sustain Brexit team, to help us fulfil our ambition for much wider public engagement in support of the Campaign for a Better Food Britain. There’s still so much to play for.
Chief Executive, Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming
Food, Money and Power: join us for an evening of lively debate with guest speaker Felicity Lawrence of The Guardian
Please join Sustain at our alliance’s Annual Gathering, to hear from guest speaker, our good friend – author and investigative journalist for The Guardian – Felicity Lawrence. Felicity has done so much to reveal the truth about the way much of our food is produced, and its consequences for the pay and well-being of workers, our health, animal welfare and the environment. Felicity will reflect on her experiences, and what she thinks should change to improve pay and working conditions in the food industry. A panel of Sustain members from across the range of issues that the alliance covers will be invited to give considered responses, followed by audience questions and lively debate. The public event starts from 7pm on 23 November (AGM starts at 6pm for Sustain members), at the Canal Museum in London, just north of King’s Cross. The theme this year will be will be on how money and power in the food system could be better balanced, to help farmers and food workers enjoy better incomes and well-being, and to help everyone enjoy better health, better food standards, and positive outcomes for animal welfare and the environment. As usual, our Annual Gathering will be followed by an opportunity to meet, eat and network. Book your place now
Food, Farming and Countryside Commission set to launch
Sir Ian Cheshire appointed Chair of Food, Farming and Countryside Commission
Sir Ian Cheshire, chair of Barclays UK and Debenhams and the former Kingfisher chief executive, will chair a major new Commission into the Future of Food and Farming, organised by the RSA [Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce]. A Director at the RSA has also been appointed – Sue Pritchard. The launch event will take place at the RSA in London on 1st November (now fully booked), followed soon after by launch events in each of the Devolved Nations:
· Monday November 20th in Belfast – see details
· Thursday November 23rd in Cardiff – see details
· Tuesday November 28th in Edinburgh – see details
This Commission was nurtured into existence by a group of farming, environment and health groups, including Sustain and several alliance members, led by Helen Browning of the Soil Association, who sat on the original Food and Farming Commission chaired by Sir Don Curry in the early 2000s. We’ll keep you updated with highlights, but for regular updates get on the Commission’s mailing list run by the RSA.
And the Brexit parliamentary timetable rolls on…
The EU (Withdrawal) Bill (also known as the Repeal Bill) comes back to the House of Commons for eight days of Committee Stage on 14 November. Proposed amendments now run to some 171 pages, at last count. Sign up to the Repeal Bill Alliance to keep track. Knowledgeable colleagues suggest most amendments will fall - bar those by Dominic Grieve MP dealing with parliamentary scrutiny, particularly of secondary legislation.
The Fisheries Bill White Paper is expected before the end of 2017.
The Agriculture Bill White (or Command) Paper is expected in April 2018, to be followed by a 12-week consultation and Agriculture Bill in summer/autumn 2018.
The Trade Bill White Paper and Customs Bill White Paper have already been published. Sustain has done a submission to the EFRA Committee Food in Trade inquiry. We will produce a short briefing, online WTO page and an event – hopefully before the end of the year to help ensure members are up to speed and can engage strategically on this area. Contact Vicki Hird: firstname.lastname@example.org
The EU deal vote is also on the horizon, with various plans being discussed within the alliance about engagement with MPs and policy-makers.
Other Brexit-related news from the last month
Conservative Environment Network and MPs call for new approach to environment policy
Conservative MPs have joined forced with the Conservative Environment Network (CEN) calling for the environment to be given a higher profile at the heart of policy making. “Thinking differently about our environment: a holistic approach to policy” is a collection of essays by MPs arguing that we can reap previously unrecognised benefits by embedding the environment in all areas of public policy. They also emphasise the benefits of harnessing horticulture and using the environment to improve health outcomes - a key consideration for Sustain and its members.
Plant protein power
A plan for a radical overhaul to Britain's food and farming system makes the case for devoting more land and support to plant proteins. It argues this would represent a four-way win: the food produced would be sustainable, healthy, affordable and ethical.
Gove may resurrect SAWS scheme
Defra secretary Michael Gove has said that when the UK leaves the EU, there may be a case for reintroducing the scheme that allowed migrant workers to come to the UK temporarily to work in the food sector.
Partners object to deals proposed for trade after Brexit
The UK's efforts to forge vital new trade deals to replace EU trading arrangements are reported to have hit a major snag, with global partners objecting to the suggested allocations of trade quotas.
Influencing the 25-year Environment Plan
The conservation NGO WWF has produced a blueprint for the Government's long-awaited 25-Year Environment Plan for England. In the wake of the EU referendum, the plan provides a unique opportunity to improve the way we manage our natural resources.
Pesticides need bigger and better regulation
An article co-authored by Defra's Chief Scientific Officer argues that better regulation is needed to control how pesticides are used and affect the environment at a landscape scale.
Food and Farming Policy
Beyond hunger and the food bank: a new right to food
The phenomenal rise in the use of charitable food banks is a symptom of an underlying disorder: That the human right to food is far from a reality for too many people in our country. Sustain, Just Fair, Nourish and the Institute of Health & Society at Newcastle University explain why our new programme will bring the benefits of a right to food home.
'Scores on the doors' should be compulsory in England
All food premises in England should be forced to display ‘Scores on the Doors’ ratings when EU laws on food safety are converted into UK law after Brexit, argues the Local Government Association.