Brexit challenge put in spotlight

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The United Kingdom’s agriculture sector faces challenges and opportunities as a result of Brexit, according to the House of Lords’ EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee.

Specifically, the industry will need to overcome challenges posed by the UK’s leaving the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), not least as CAP funding currently supports many farms across the UK.

Repatriating agricultural policy-making to the UK will also require careful consideration, regarding the needs of the industry. Future trade agreements and the devolution settlements are also critical factors to be assessed moving forward. The changes will affect an industry, which by its very nature must make long-term business decisions. A transitional period will also be needed to allow farmers survive and prosper post-Brexit.

These are among the findings and recommendations of a report entitled ‘Brexit: agriculture’ published by the Energy and Environment sub-committee. 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.

“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 report 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.