The UK farming industry is reliant on migrant labour in many areas of food production and in abattoirs and processing plants. The reference to “taking control of borders” has already caused a degree of anxiety on those workers already in the UK, whether from EU countries or outside the EU. News reports of EU migrants being subjected to hostile treatment have not helped and stories have circulated of migrants returning to their countries or not being prepared to come to the UK for this year’s seasonal work. The fall in the value of the pound against the euro has made earnings in the UK less attractive.
The Common Agricultural Policy has for the last 45 years provided a backdrop to the payment of farm and production subsidies. The three main objectives for the CAP are: viable food production; sustainable management of natural resources and climate action, and balanced territorial development. These have, in recent years, been changed and reviewed to take the form partly of direct payments to farmers and partly funding for rural development available to farmers and the wider rural community.
As well as dismantling and replacing subsidies, the areas of law that the government may target when EU obligations are removed are habitat regulation, animal welfare, licensing of pesticides, herbicides, water and air quality, and tariffs on food and allied imports. Some of these will be sensitive to the industry as well as to public pressure groups such as whether to move forward faster with GM crops production and other applications.
European and other national regulations will still be applied to the welfare and food safety standards applicable in those countries to food and produce exported from the UK.
By the time Brexit happens all the negotiations between the interested bodies, including industry groups and wider countryside organisations on the one hand and DEFRA and the devolved Administrations, will have to have been settled by March 2019 so that the Agricultural industry will have certainty as to the future of support payments funded from the Treasury.
The funding solutions will be different for the devolved regions, as they are at present so, unlike many areas of industry, the agricultural industry will be playing a four-handed Brexit game simultaneously.
Look, listen and take heed.
Read the farming press and engage with the farming and landowning organisations. It will be vital when deciding on long term investments to be able to judge how profitability might be affected by changes to workforce, support payments, and export tariffs.
Our Agricultural and Rural Property team of lawyers are monitoring discussions and developments closely and would be pleased to join discussion groups and to advise you.