Devolution

Working Together to sort devolution of farm, fish and environmental issues


One of the main rows after the vote is to who should decide matters which were previously devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This applies particularly to agriculture and fishing. Fishing because it is a major industry of the devolved governments - more than England alone. And agriculture because the form of farming in the devolved countries depended much more on EU subsidies - either CAP or Regional. Nearly half Scottish farmers earn less than the minimum wage.
Farm devolution row is brewing. Farming is a 'devolved' issue. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland each have their own views on farming - witness the different Agricultural Wages Boards. Institute for government sets out 8 'challenges' for devolution of the environment, agriculture and fisheries.
At present CAP makes up 50% of farm incomes in England, 75% in Scotland, 80% in Wales and 87% in Northern Ireland. In future Westminster will have the final say. This would contradict the Devolution Acts of 1988. CAP money per head of teh population is even more unevenly distributed. In England it is £350, over twice that in Wales and Scotland at around £860 and in NI £1400 per head.All Together
House of Lords debate Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Economies said "Most agree that maximising the benefits of this once-in-a-generation opportunity requires the key challenges arising from Brexit to be successfully resolved. These are: the need for frictionless access to existing and new export markets; for continued access to a skilled and competent work force; for a domestic market that is a level playing field and is not suddenly exposed to cut-price imports, with inferior environmental and animal welfare standards; and for a targeted support system with, importantly, the UK and the devolved Administrations working together in a creative and constructive manner."

Wales

The Welsh Governments has agreed with the Withdrawal Bill. Predicted impact on Welsh farming. Opportunity to put 'made in Wales' support systems in place, according to Welsh government secretary for rural affairs

Northern Ireland


May pay farmers a guaranteed minimum payment - less than present subsidies - topped up for improved water quality and habitat protection. But they have more on their mind - the toffee called Border Fudge
To move to trade talks, we agreed about a frictionless Irish border. All interested parties agreed to be ‘fully aligned’, meaning standards between Ireland and N Ireland would be similar but not necessarily the same; this means staying close to EU standards—i.e. those ‘harmonised’ for the Internal (Single) Market. This is particularly relevant to agricultural goods, where there seems to be general agreement to keep our animal and food standards much as they are. However, there is no mention on the matter of all those food taxes (2,000 tariffs). If we come out of the Customs Union, there will be tariffs on food (up to 30% for meat) both ways across the border(s). How can this be 'fully aligned' - ie no taxes either way? To do that we would have to stay in the Customs Union. Come out, and we have to negotiate 'alignments' for 2000 farm taxed farm products, then 15,000 more for processed foods. Unless the alignment for each is FULLY IDENTICAL, there will have to be a border with Customs checking what food/farm products you are moving...see UK-EU Deal for more. Border Fudge According to the Headmistress of St Theresa's Grammar School for Girls (and boys) in Private Eye, Mrs T May wrote: "Pupils may like to know that my Irish Border Fudge is now available in the tuck shop. Though unfortunately they do not have any in stock. That's because although it does exist n theory, it doesn't necessarily in practice."
Food, Brexit & Northern Ireland This report spells out the food flows. 680,000 tonnes go from NI to Great Britain and 680,000 tonnes go from Great Britain into N Ireland (3 English based retailers provide over 70% of NI food). There are 275 road crossings today compared with 135 for all EU border with East countries." They are currently free from inspection because of shared EU Single Market regulation. A mishandled food border imposition is likely to have powerful, destabilising consequences for the integrated nature of food supply, trade and access within Northern Ireland for many years to come The report dismisses talk of ‘technological fixes’ to help maintain the smooth flow of goods as vague, unavailable now and unrealistic. They make 30 recommendations to resolve practical challenges.
"Technology cannot offer a frictionless solution to border controls. The need for formal product standard approvals, hygiene checks, advance security declarations, VAT calculations and payment, and the inevitable delays at the border, cannot be wished away" - according to Liam Fox's former top official.
Nevertheless it is worth seeing how 'blockchain' technology could address many food chain issues. "What if the supermarket established its own blockchain for its suppliers. The producers of the milk, butter, cheese, Peking Duck, beef and whatever would tag what they were selling to the supermarket at source. This might be by pairs of (for example) Peking Duck breasts or boxes containing 100 such breasts. The RFID chip would relate to an input which the producer would enter onto the supermarket’s blockchain. This would include, among other details, a full description, provenance, value, date of production, description, tariffs/taxes applicable, etc." All very well - but who will build them? It would need cooperation between the two governments. I have also heard that whatever tagging went on, there would be those inclined to swap tags. More on food and blockchains.

Scotland


Scotland overwhelmingly voted against in order to prevent Westminster stripping powers from them regarding devolved matters - such as agriculture.
Food Standards Scotland warned if food standards and labelling became reserved,, Scottish businesses in the food sector may not have their needs taken into account when new regulations are being devised by ministers in London. The head also warned that efforts to improve public health north of the Border, including fighting obesity, would be undermined by the UK Government’s plans.
Agriculture could be out of the transition arrangement Scottish Office Minister Ian Duncan shocked farmers and the devolved regions by suggesting the UK will have its own agricultural policy by exit date in March 2019. Lord Duncan claimed the bombshell move was DEFRA Secretary Michael Gove’s ‘clear negotiating position’. Apparently Brexit talks could be made easier by taking CAP out of the equation, but the devolved regions appear to be completely in the dark.Are our leaders’ cold feet now leaving Scottish farmers and crofters out in the cold?
There are signs that Britain (or is that England?) is grabbing all farming powers. Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, said that it would be “utterly unacceptable” for Westminster to reclaim oversight of farming and fishing policy. Any such move would “fundamentally undermine the basis of the existing devolution settlement”. Agricultural power grab could break up UK:
All SNP MPs walk out because of 'power grab'. Their leader in parliament, Ian Blackford, accused the government of attempting to claw back powers from Holyrood, including those over farming, fisheries and the environment.