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."
Agriculture Bill October 10 2018, SoS promises that Welsh Assembly NI and Scottish governments will be empowered. "to do what they believe is right for our farmers, and what is right for our farmers is to move away from a system that has constrained their energy, undermined their enterprise Col 161


A Revised Future for Welsh agriculture The Welsh Government consulted on Brexit and our land: Securing the future of Welsh farming. where they "proposed the adoption of a whole-farm approach, which integrates efficient and sustainable food production with practices that maintain and enhance natural and human capital. "

Welsh farm incomes forecast to drop by 15% in year to March '19. "These figures once again show the volatility that all farm types in Wales are subjected to, and reinforce the need for future agriculture policy in Wales to include a volatility or stability component, alongside public goods and productivity measures."
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
Lack of clarity over 'No Deal'causing increasing anxiety among farmers and food producers in border regions "and push up price of bread in Ireland
While parliament stops the threat of 'no deal' (Sept 3/4 '19), Mr Johnson’s Democratic Unionist Party allies are open to an all-Ireland agri-food approach to replace the border “backstop”. Much NI trade to South is milk, which then comes back into UK as cheese.
In the plan, 'agri-food' would be excluded from tariff and non tariff issues, and be considered as if it were 'All Ireland'. It certainly would lighten the load as much of the cross border traffic is agri-food - and the most difficult to monitor from afar. Big deal from DUP, but EU will say 'you cannot cherry pick'. Or to be more precise in these circumstances 'You cannot cheese pick'.

Northern Ireland

Oct '19 Agriculture Policy Development in absence of NI government

32% of Northern Ireland's exports to Ireland are classified as "food and live animals".

A no-deal Brexit would effectively end this trade. UK government advice says that "to transport animals, products of animal origin (POAO), fish, shellfish, crustaceans, germplasm or fishery products from the UK to the EU in the event of no deal, you’ll need to ensure the trade route for your goods allows for your consignment to be checked at a border inspection post (BIP) at the first EU country you enter for export. There are two BIPs in Ireland: one at Dublin port, and the other at Shannon airport in the middle of the island.
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 in theory, it doesn't necessarily in practice."

Sticking Point

Increasingly how to 'solve the border question' is becoming the sticking point of withdrawal of UK from the EU. They are working on a hybrid plan that aims to avoid both a hard border on the island of Ireland and a customs border that divides the UK. But the proposed 'backstop' would require checks on goods and agri-food products from the UK mainland, both at ports and in the marketplace.

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.


A challenging sector with an uncertain future. 85% of Scottish agricultural land is 'less favoured' - ie harsh. "Scotland produces exceptional quality beef and lamb, but lower prices and the cessation of headage support payments has resulted in the loss of large numbers of stock from hill ground over recent years, especially in the north west."

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.