Food & Farming At Heart Of Brexit Strategy

A Letter To David Davis MP

This morning, alongside 84 other organisations and on behalf of our supporters, we have signed a letter to David Davis and Theresa May to stress the important implications of Brexit on food and farming. We urge the government to adopt common-sense food, farming and fishing policies that are good for jobs, health and the environment, when they plan for the UK’s exit from the European Union. Here is the letter in full: 

David Davis MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA                                                                                                       14th July, 2016

Dear David Davis MP (copied to Theresa May PM),

We are writing to you in your role overseeing the new government unit, which will lay the groundwork for a British exit from the European Union. Our group of 85 signatory organisations works across a wide spectrum of food issues, including farming, countryside, environment, fishing and marine environment, poverty, trade, animal welfare and public health, together representing the interests of millions of people. We met this week to discuss the implications of the EU Referendum for food and farming.

A large proportion of the UK’s current food, farming and fishery policies is covered by EU competence, and re-thinking this creates many opportunities. Better food, farming and trade policies can help to cut greenhouse gas emissions from farming and food industries by 80% by 2050, and promote healthier diets to combat heart disease, cancers, diabetes and obesity and to promote oral health. Such policies can also support a vibrant and diverse economy, good jobs and working conditions, ethical and sustainable production methods, international development, improved animal welfare, more farmland and marine wildlife and restored farmland biodiversity, as well as enhancing the beauty of the countryside and protecting the environment (in particular fresh water and soils), while providing a safe and traceable food supply.

Crafting good food and farming policies is also essential to help heal the rift that has so far characterised the EU Referendum process, as well as to combat the disenfranchisement and distrust in the political process that so many of our fellow citizens have expressed.

We therefore suggest that the new unit, under your leadership, should:

Ensure, in concert with the devolved administrations, that fair, healthy, humane and environmentally sustainable food, farming, fishing and land management are central to the post EU Referendum strategy for the UK.

  • Food, farming and fishing policies, and the sectors’ compliance with strong environmental protections, designed explicitly to achieve public good, must be the bedrock principle for any post EU Referendum negotiations.

  • Public spending on subsidies, research or other support must be directly linked to public goods.

  • The role of migrant and seasonal labour in food production needs to be tackled head on.

Ensure that new trade agreements build on, and do not undermine, progress achieved over several decades and under several governments.

There are many examples, to name but a few: local and sustainable food in public sector food buying, which can help lead the way in investing in quality British production; environmental legislation that protects natural environments, wildlife and habitats; the living wage and better working conditions; millions of food jobs supported in the world’s poorest countries; food labelling and marketing controls; animal welfare standards; tackling food waste; support for organic production methods, and new approaches to reducing farm antibiotic use. While more progress is needed in all of these areas, we are seriously concerned that such considerations may be over-run by a drive for new trade deals at any cost, and pressures to de-regulate. Conducting Environmental and Health Impact Assessments as part of the preparation for new trade deals should be a critical step in the process.

We therefore urge you to ensure that:

  • The unit’s terms of reference include public health and sustainability.

  • Food, farming and fishing makes up one of the Options Papers being developed by your unit.

  • The unit includes officials with food, farming and fishing, public health and sustainability expertise, including from e.g. DEFRA, DfID, BIS, FSA, FSS and DH, and from the Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland governments and administrations.

  • You draw on expertise outside the civil service to support your fact-finding and development of options. We are ready to support you in this and our networks include some of the UK’s best academics on food policy, experts on key issues and other well-informed stakeholders.

  • Respect for scientific advice on environmental and public health matters is prioritised, for example when advising on environmental legislation and fishing quotas.

  • Consideration is given to the wealth of policy work that our organisations and others have done in recent years, to inform your food and farming Options Paper. Examples include:

  • Important principles, processes and legal requirements that are already enshrined in UK policy or have been upheld in EU negotiations, often with the strong support from the UK, are built upon. For example: the need for policy to further international development objectives; legislation to protect species and habitats and to ensure fishing at sustainable levels (Maximum Sustainable Yields – MSY); drives to reduce waste in commercial fisheries; climate change targets; the precautionary principle, and the Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030 for which the Cabinet Office oversees domestic implementation), especially to support the most economically vulnerable in the UK and internationally.

  • Important policy initiatives already underway are not further delayed, nor undermined, such as the Childhood Obesity Strategy; the 25-year Environment Plan; implementation of the national pollinator strategy; and the devolution of power and responsibilities to UK cities and local administrations.

  • The highest standards of transparency in policy development are upheld, as this will be key to winning support and building public trust.

We would really value an opportunity to meet with you, at your earliest convenience, to discuss these issues and to explore how we can support the new unit in its important work.

Yours sincerely (in alphabetical order by organisation),

Jenny Rosborough, Campaigns Manager, Action on Sugar

Christopher Jones MBE, Coordinator, Agricultural Christian Fellowship

Jonathan Pauling, Chief Executive, Alexandra Rose Charity

Baroness Sue Miller, Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group: Agroecology

Sharon Hodgson MP, Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group: School Food

Emma Rose, Coordinator, Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics

Patti Rundall OBE, Policy Director, Baby Milk Action

Jacqui Mackay, National Coordinator, Banana Link

Dr Elizabeth Mitchell, Chair, Belfast Food Network

Dr Sue Christie, Vice Chair, Belfast Food Network

Pat Thomas, Founder Director, Beyond GM

Peter Brown, Director, Biodynamic Association

Katharine Jenner, Chief Executive, Blood Pressure UK

Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive, Campaign for the Protection of Rural England

James Treasure-Evans, International Policy Manager, Concern Universal

Professor Graham MacGregor, Chair, Consensus Action on Salt and Health

Philip Lymbery, Chief Executive, Compassion in World Farming

Sue Dibb, Coordinator, Eating Better Alliance

Ricarda A Steinbrecher, Co-Director, Econexus

Barbara Young, Co-Chair, Environmentalists for Europe

Stanley Johnson, Co-Chair, Environmentalists for Europe and Former Conservative MEP

Dr Mick Horton, Dean, Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK), Royal College of Surgeons

Professor Simon Capewell, Vice President for Policy, Faculty of Public Health

Barbara Crowther, Director, Policy & Public Affairs, Fairtrade Foundation

Pippa Woods CBE, Chair, Family Farmers’ Association

Ian Eggington-Metters, Interim Director, Federation of City Farms & Community Gardens

Niki Charalampopoulou, Managing Director, Feedback: The global food waste campaign

Helen Crawley, Coordinator, First Steps Nutrition Trust

Dan Crossley, Executive Director, Food Ethics Council

Anna Taylor, Executive Director, Food Foundation

Victoria Williams, Director, Food Matters

Professor Tim Lang, Founder, Food Research Collaboration, City University

Professor Corinna Hawkes, Chair, Food Research Collaboration, City University

Geoff Tansey, Curator, Food Systems Academy

Mark Driscoll, Head of Food, Forum for the Future

Jonathan Porritt, Co-Founder, Forum for the Future

Clare Oxborrow, Senior Campaigner, Friends of the Earth: Land, Food & Water                   

Joe Mann, Director and Food Teacher, Fun Kitchen

Lawrence Woodward, Director, Future Sustainability

James Campbell, Chief Executive, Garden Organic

Nick Dearden, Director, Global Justice Now

Liz O’Neill, Director, GM Freeze

John Sauven, Executive Director, Greenpeace

Oliver Dowding, Agricultural Spokesperson, Green Party of England and Wales

Professor Ralph Early, Professor of Food Industry, Harper Adams University (Food Science & Agri-Food Supply Chain Management)

Robin Ireland, Chief Executive, Health Equalities Group

Dr Richard Marsh                Chief Executive                             Institute for Food, Brain and Behaviour

Professor Sylvia Tilford    President Elect                              Institute of Health Promotion and Education

Emily Howgate                    Coordinating Director                 International Pole & Line Foundation

Allison Ogden-Newton    Chief Executive                             Keep Britain Tidy

Ed Hamer                               Spokesperson                               Landworkers Alliance

Rosie Boycott                       Chair                                                  London Food Board,
Greater London Authority

Jerry Percy                            Executive Director                       Low Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE)

                                                  and Chief Executive                    New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association

Carmel McConnell MBE   Founder                                           Magic Breakfast

Carrie Hume                         Director of Conservation          Marine Conservation Society (MCS)
and Campaigns                            

Professor David Haslam   Chair                                                  National Obesity Forum

Marc Stears                          Chief Executive                             New Economics Foundation

Pete Ritchie                          Director                                            Nourish Scotland

Alan Schofield                      Chairman                                         Organic Growers Alliance

Nic Lampkin                          Director                                            Organic Research Centre

Paul Moore                           Director                                            Organic Trade Board

John Meadley                      Chair                                                  Pasture Fed Livestock Association

Keith Tyrell                            Director                                            Pesticides Action Network UK

Ruth West                             Co-Founder / Director               Real Farming Trust

Sara Jayne Stanes              Chief Executive                             Royal Academy of Culinary Arts

Alison Swan-Parente        Director                                            School of Artisan Food

Stephanie Wood                Director                                            School Food Matters

Dr Jonathan Rae                 Head of College                            Schumacher College at Dartington Hall Trust

Professor Annie Anderson   Chair                                                  Scottish Cancer Prevention Network

Patrick Krause                      Chief Executive                             Scottish Crofting Federation

Paul Stuart                            Interim Chief Executive             Send a Cow

Helen Browning                  Chief Executive                             Soil Association

Laura Stewart                      Director                                            Soil Association Scotland

Caroline Bennett                Founder / Director                      Sole of Discretion

Shane Holland                     Executive Chairman                    Slow Food in the UK

Rend Platings                       Coordinator                                    Sugarwise

Kath Dalmeny                      Coordinator                                    Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming

…Sustain coordinates the following alliance activities, involving many national and community organisations:

                                                                                                              Better Jobs for Better Farming and Land Use

                                                                                                              Campaign for Better Hospital Food

                                                                                                              Campaign for a Sugary Drinks Duty

                                                                                                              Children’s Food Campaign

                                                                                                              Sustainable Fish Cities

Tom Andrews                      Programme Manager                 Sustainable Food Cities Network

Patrick Holden                     Chief Executive / Founder       Sustainable Food Trust

Tom Wills                               Policy Officer                                 Traidcraft

Richie Alford                         Co-Chair                                           UK Food Group

Dr Angela Wright                Co-Chair                                           UK Food Group

Modi Mwatsama                Director, Policy & Global Health   UK Health Forum

Diana Holland                       Assistant General Secretary
for Food & Agriculture               Unite the Union

Dave Prentis                         General Secretary                       UNISON

Professor Kevin Morgan Professor of Governance         University of Cardiff, Geography & Planning
& Development                           

Vicki Hird                                Director of Policy & Campaigns     War on Want

Stephen Trotter                  Director for England                    Wildlife Trusts