There has been a lot in the media over the last few days talking about the future of our countryside outside of the European Union. With the Environment Secretary talking about a Green Brexit and the potential import of chlorinated chicken from America, it reminds us that food and farming are central to decisions about how we leave the EU and future trade deals. It is vital that we get these decisions right as our food and farming industry is nationally important, generating over £108 billion a year for the UK economy and employing one in eight people. It is particularly important for our most rural areas where farming is often central to the economic and social life of the community as well as playing a vital role in conservation.
The UK produces some of the best food in the world, with the highest standards of safety and animal welfare and we must not let trade negotiations undermine our farmers and producers.
The Countryside Alliance believes:
- Any new trade deals must protect these high standards and allow our produce to be promoted globally and compete on the basis of quality, not just price.
- Tariff-free access to the EU market and labour must be maintained after we leave the EU.
- We must develop an agricultural policy that is appropriate for the UK, targeting support payments for the public good provided by farmers.
Finally, the Countryside Alliance will ensure that British farmers and producers continue to receive the support of consumers through the improvement food labelling to enable shoppers to buy British in the knowledge that it means they are buying some of the best food in the world.
We are raising these issues with the Government, and will be addressing how Brexit can work for the countryside at our party conference events in the autumn where we will be joined by Ministers, spokespeople, and rural experts. We are using every opportunity in Parliament to ensure food and farming is central to Brexit, including taking part in a House of Lords inquiry into Brexit and farm animal welfare. The report from this inquiry published today (25 July 2017) reflects the concerns in our Brexit Policy Document that “the greatest threat to animal welfare standards post-Brexit would come from UK farmers competing against cheap, imported food from countries that produce to lower standards than the UK”.