The government have opened up consultation - till May 8 about future of our food and farming. If Brexit has done nothing else, it has opened up a debate we should have been having for the last 50 years. And should take in the following..
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is one of the founding policies of the original Common Market, and brings together national intervention programmes into one scheme "to allow farmers to compete on a level playing field". Translated that means: 'EU farmers will have a level playing field with each other, while the rest of the world is in the furrows of a ploughing field". And that is where we could end. Whatever form of Brexit, EU CAP subsidies will go. How we replace them is a vital issue for farm and food.
Michael Gove's oft repeated position is "We should use some of that money (guaranteed same as now till 2020) to sustain and boost agricultural productivity. But the lion’s share of that money should go to farmers to help them to do the right thing environmentally.” At Oxford Farming Conference in 2018 he said: "We will design a scheme accessible to almost any land owner or manager who wishes to enhance the natural environment by planting woodland, providing new habitats for wildlife, increasing biodiversity, contributing to improved water quality and returning cultivated land to wildflower meadows or other more natural states.” He also guaranteed the same level of subsidies until at 2014. "We can have our own - national - food policy, our own agriculture policy, our own environment policies, our own economic policies, shaped by our own interests." "New trade deals with other countries outside the EU would provide new markets for the "superb food" Britain's farmers".
He also went to the Oxford Real Farming Conference saying “The future for British food is in quality and provenance and traceability and competing at the top of the value chain,” Possible contradictions between two speeches
Welcome 1 Maintaining level of subsidies, although should start transition earlier for 5 years. 2 Addressing flood control. 3 Moving subsidies from ownership of land, including cap on any single landowner - previously blocked by ex PM Cameron in the EU. (PS Also agree with his view on pesticides not in this speech)
Do not welcome 1 Turning the UK into a parkland. 2 Silence on growing more healthy food 3 Walking away from our largest food market - with no tariffs (Customs Union) nor any non-tariff barriers (Single Market). 4 Silence on reliance on modern slave labour and migrant workers that led to Brexit 5. Fate of sheep/dairy farmers 6 Nothing on infrastructure to grow more local food for ourselves, saving other peoples' environments. See Chap 7 Sustainability for much more. Gove's vision of Brexit will make life difficult in rural areas, but preserving a view of the countryside from cities, as highlighted by APPG report, who say "poorly handled trade deals biggest peacetime threat to UK food security". 5 food fights in trade deals.
We don't have to leave EU to change our subsidies! New - EU shifts power to individual countries to choose how and where to invest their subsidies to meet common goals on the environment, climate change and sustainability. In its reform, Brussels proposes to transform the first pillar into an extension of the second, leaving national capitals to design their own direct payments and environmental programmes. France worries over 'renationalisation' saying there won't be much in 'Common' soon about the main EU policy - agriculture. Attention will change from compliance to monitoring progress and measuring outcomes. Mind you, each country now gets less as a result of our Brexit. Without same level of subsidies, half of French farms would not break even.
NFU sets out vision of coming out of CAP - in three phases: 1) Stability & Continuity 2) Review & Assessment 3) New ambitious policy. The outgoing President said " These cornerstones should be seen like a milking stool - there's a lot of spilt milk of you remove one of them. He added we need to access the EU market and a reliable workforce. That means staying in the EU but he wont say it!
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust vision for post-Brexit Policy Our vision "is built on three important beliefs – that any successful system must be farmer-led, work on a large scale and reward activity that actually generates positive environmental outcomes, be they species recovery, carbon storage or soil health."
Chatham House says subsidies should be heavily curtailed or abolished to mix free trade with meeting green targets. A market-orientated model, such as the one in New Zealand, would lower food prices and increase productivity. It warned many smaller farms would probably fold but said the scale of job losses could be "exaggerated". If you are in the City it may look 'exaggerated' but not if you are working the land. See AHDB New Zealand Experience when they removed subsidies. New Zealand created new markets, while we are walking away from our largest market. Lobbying behind this 'New Zealand' policy is Legatum Institute/Foundation. They believe "There is now a brief opportunity for Britain to restore her freedom to trade, liberalising the global trading system itself...reflecting the will of the people"
In Chapter 5, I argue that £3+b subsidies going to landowners at present should go to 300,000 permanent land workers (This incudes farmers and farmworkers) each receiving £10,000 - enough to make a Living wage.
The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has to deal with more EU Directives and Regulations than any other department - about 40% of the total. PM backs down on 'Henry VIII' clauses Ministers give a big concession to Brexit rebels over the use of Henry VIII (who just decided matters without parliament) powers, by accepting demands for a cross-party committee with power to prevent over-use of the archaic powers, which have been dubbed “rule by decree”. Many aspects of translation from EU to UK laws will be open to interpretation - that should not be by 'ministerial' decree but by parliament - that is why we have a parliamentary democracy.
The book looks at the most important issues to be considered. Prior to the Referendum, DEFRA was being hacked apart, but has since has had to take on a lot of staff to deal with the transfer of EU law into UK law. We have heard that many of those staff have been transferred from other departments - so may know about law, but not about food and farming. We have also heard that major food manufacturers have offered DEFRA their own staff - for free, to help out. This means more than ever there should be a much more open process where we can see what is going on.
In the transfer of law, regulations already made as a result of Directives will continue. However the Directives will have to be translated and put before parliament. A third tier - Statutory Instruments - may be devolved to individual institutions to make their own law. You could imagine Chemical Regulation Division of Health & Safety Executive - responsible for pesticides (lots more in Chapter 9 of Bittersweet Brexit) and REACH - writing its own statutory instruments in future.
Environment Minister Michael Gove plans to set up 'world leading' statutory environment body to maintain standards that would ' "hold the powerful to account" to protect land, water, air and wildlife. This is to head off 'serious concerns from Sir Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit secretary that the 'Withdrawl Bill needed “clear and robust protection and enforcement mechanisms” on environmental standards.
UK cannot 'cherry pick' standards, should there be an EU-UK Free Trade Agreement. Mr Barnier said there has to be a "level playing field" with the EU, and the Government must not ditch European standards, such as those currently in place for food safety standards and animal welfare.
Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (whose review of Bittersweet Brexit will be in their December edition) said that "Maintaining high levels of food safety standards across the UK following Brexit is imperative, and without a deal on this with the EU, additional checks will simply have to happen to protect British consumers...a cliff-edge Brexit could see UK consumers suffer as food imports grind to a halt and prices rise". See below 'Sanitary Measures' for who will do the checks.
Huge risk to Food standards. FEC Report calls for 'food systems awash with fairness, not chickens washed with chlorine'.
NFU says there should not be drop in standards NFU presidents says: "Those who advocate a “cheap food policy” should bear in mind the price that is paid in terms of standards, traceability of produce and shifting the environmental impact to other countries" Bittersweet Brexit (p217) spells out how already our environmental impact in other countries is already too much. While nearly 1/2 our food comes from abroad, there is disproportionately more impact - 2/3 of our GHGs created and 2X as much land used, abroad.
MPs reject 'animal sentience' in EU (Withdrawl) Bill. Under EU law, animals are recognised as beings which feel pain and emotions. 80% of current animal welfare legislation comes from the EU. While most EU law relating to animals will be automatically brought over into UK law, this may not apply to the recognition of sentience. The British Vets Association said "this action undermines the Government’s previous promises that the UK will continue to be known for our high standards of animal health and welfare post-Brexit." HOWEVER!!! Environment Minister Gove says government will retain 'sentience' - that rejection of New Clause 30 was because it was faulty - not to do with sentience. He promises to go further than EU on improved animal welfare and could back Teresa Villiers who wants parliamentary debate to stop export of live sheep and cattle following Brexit- that EU insists on as a part of 'free movement'. Latest on 'Sentience' bill Feb 18
Geographic Indications (GIs)
GIs protect specialised foods like Melton Mowbray pies, stopping others copying them. Brussels has managed to negotiate the recognition of a number of GIs in the framework of the CETA trade treaty with Canada, and is taking the same path in negotiations with South American trading block Mercosur. So hopefully the EU will recognise our GIs..
Rise in Veterinary Certifications. BVA say "new trade agreements for meat and agricultural products like milk, gelatine and hay could trigger a significant increase in the number of veterinary certifications needed, requiring many more vets to perform this role." The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), a reference organisation of the World Trade Organization (WTO), has recognised veterinary services and certification as “fundamental” for food safety. (Full report to EFRA). if the UK is treated as a'third' country, it will have to provide evidence of proper safety procedures when dealing with the EU. (However - despite people saying 'we will play by WTO rules', we are not yet in the WTO. We have to join - as a new member.)
To combat the potential shortage in veterinary capacity, BVA is also calling on the Government to guarantee working rights for non-British EU vets and veterinary nurses currently working and studying in the UK. This is because we have run down our veterinary training provisions in this country, so only 70% UK trained, down from 78% in 2010. While hard to define, 'veterinary research' has declined over 5% since the millennium according to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.