Since DEFRA has not yet outlined a post-Brexit plan, Dr Mary Abbott suggests what this should be:
JUNE 2016 - DEFRA should announce:
1. Continuation of Basic Farm Payment (and existing environmental agreements), substantially unchanged for the foreseeable future. Treasury to save £1.7bn annually from 2018.
2. Initiation of discussions with the industry on additional (WTO compatible) mechanisms for supporting agriculture in the future including:
Insurance schemes for crops and livestock
Milk Marketing Orders (minimum prices as used in USA)
Producer Groups Production standards, product identification and labelling
Basic Farm Payment cross-compliance requirements
Environmental and access schemes Annual review with industry representatives.
3. A wider consultation on food trade policy. Does the UK still want cheap food? Free trade and lowest prices may not be the best for:
The health and wellbeing of the population – the quality, provenance and price of the food available to buy is important to people's health. Cheap food is fuelling the obesity crisis.
The NHS – As Britain becomes the fat man of Europe, type 2 diabetes and its complications is reported to currently cost the NHS 10% of its budget, and rising.
The Treasury – there are NHS costs and welfare benefit costs resulting from badly managed food policy.
Food security – in an increasingly insecure world can the UK continue to rely on imports for 40% of its food.
This discussion is necessary before a political decision is taken on trade with the EU, and the wider world, in farm and food products.
JUNE 2018 - the UK leaves the EU and a number of alternative trade scenarios may then exist:
The UK has agreed free trade with the EU – no change to existing situation and trade patterns.
The UK has not agreed free trade with the EU. It starts applying tariffs to UK exports and the UK responds by applying similar tariffs. This would be a major boost for UK agriculture as we import more food than we export – for more details see www.farmersforbritain.co.uk/#!Dr-Mary-Abbott-Fear-Cameron-and-Truss-not-Brexit/twpur/56e96f400cf221f9af2f1573
The UK opts for trade unilateral disarmament – pays tariffs on its exports and charges no tariffs on its imports. Maintaining UK agriculture would be most expensive to the Treasury under this scenario. Food standards would be compromised and it is important that politicians understand the dangers – though it would be open to any UK Government to revert to option 2.
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