This Food Brexit Briefing brings together three interlinked issues that demand policy attention as the clock ticks towards Brexit:
- The question of whether the Government is paying enough attention to agri-food in the negotiating process, given its central role in both public wellbeing and the national economy.
- The threat a careless Brexit poses to the UK’s short-term food security – and any long-term attempt to develop a genuinely sustainable food strategy for the whole of the UK.
- The risk generated to the UK’s status as a potential trading partner of the EU by the Food Standards Agency’s decision to press ahead with major reform of UK food safety regulation, at a time when regulatory stability and clarity have never been more important.
The report was written by FRC’s Professor Tim Lang, with Professor Erik Millstone (Sussex), Tony Lewis (Head of Policy at Chartered Institute for Environmental Health) and Professor Terry Marsden (Cardiff). It takes stock of ‘food Brexit’ and argues that a hard Brexit or no-deal Brexit (and retreat to WTO rules) would imperil the sustainability and security of Britain’s food supply.
The report recommends that the Government should:
- Maintain a clear and explicit focus on the potential adverse effects of Brexit on food security in the UK, while negotiating the UK’s future trading relationships with the EU and other jurisdictions.
- Publish Brexit impact studies on the UK’s agricultural and food system for the White Paper and Chequers Statement and any subsequent proposals.
- Ensure that high food standards remain at the heart of any future trade deals.
- Provide clarity on its proposed migration policy, taking account of the contributions that non-UK citizens of the EU are making to the quantity and quality of the UK’s food supply and services.
- Avoid a hard Food Brexit at all costs.The UK must not retreat to a WTO-rules-based regime. The EU would then categorise the UK as a ‘3rd Country’, which could be a recipe for chaos.
- Create a new Sustainable Food Security Strategy. This would engage with the complexities of the food system and the multiple criteria by which it should be evaluated; and identify clear priorities and pathways for progress.
The report also calls on the Food Standards Agency to:
- Address the calls for clarification and evidence posed in the paper in respect of its Regulating Our Future (ROF) Where such clarification or evidence is not available, then the Agency should modify or suspend the introduction of its proposals, at least until after Brexit.