House of Lords committee highlights scale of Brexit challenge

A House of Lords EU Environment and Energy sub-committee has highlighted the scale of the challenge facing UK agriculture, courtesy of a recently-published report entitled ‘Brexit: Agriculture’.

Specific issues highlighted within the publication include the repatriation of agricultural policy from Brussels to London, plus the implication of future trade agreements between the UK and third countries. Devolution settlements will also be critical factors to be assessed.

The report recognises that agriculture, by its very nature, must make long-term business decisions. A lengthy transitional period will, therefore, be needed to allow farmers survive and prosper post-Brexit.

Commenting on the report, Lord Teverson, who chaired the group, said:

Post-Brexit the UK’s agriculture and food sectors face enormous challenges. Life after the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy will not be easy for the many UK farmers who rely on its financial support.

He added: “But leaving the EU is also an opportunity for the UK, and its constituent nations and regions, to move away from the EU’s ‘one-size-fits-all’ policies on farming and food. We will be able to really think about what we want to do with agriculture, food and the environment.

“Trade, especially with the EU, is really important for the agri-food sector. It is unlikely that a comprehensive trade deal with the EU will be negotiated before Brexit, so a transitional deal is vital to avoiding a ‘cliff edge’ for farmers. The government and the devolved administrations will also need to be careful that tailored agricultural policies don’t create non-tariff barriers for UK exports.”

The report addresses a number of the issues that will dominate discussion within the UK’s agri-food sector over the next few years including the withdrawal by the UK from the Common Agricultural Policy, future trade in agri-food products and future access to labour.

The publication specifically recognises that both tariff and non-tariff barriers could disrupt integrated supply chains between the UK and the EU, and pose a particular challenge for the agri-food sector in Northern Ireland.