With Brexit, Bri­tish agri­cul­ture faces new chal­lenges

Rural & Marketing - - RURAL EUROPE -

Mem­bers of the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WTO) like In­done­sia, Ar­gentina, the United States, China, and Rus­sia are tak­ing a keen in­ter­est in Brexit, par­tic­u­larly on how Bri­tain will han­dle its agri­cul­tural tar­iff sys­tem in the fu­ture. In­done­sia of­fi­cially posed the ques­tion on Bri­tain’s agri­cul­tural mar­ket sta­tus in WTO’s agri­cul­ture com­mit­tee.

Lib­er­at­ing Bri­tain from the chains of the EU’s Com­mon Agri­cul­tural Pol­icy (CAP) is an iconic de­mand for Bri­tain’s eu­roscep­tics. CAP con­sumes 40 per­cent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s bud­get. In 1984, Prime Min­is­ter Mar­garet Thatcher ar­gued that Bri­tain has a much smaller agri­cul­tural sec­tor to de­mand and se­cure the fa­mous re­bate on the UK’s con­tri­bu­tion to the EU bud­get. And even the proEuro­pean Lib­eral Nick Clegg has called the CAP a “waste­ful and eco­nom­i­cally per­verse sup­port sys­tem for Europe’s farm­ers.”

As Bri­tain sets out to em­brace the op­por­tu­ni­ties of a post-Brexit world, there are few chal­lenges Lon­don will need to ad­dress, in­clud­ing ral­ly­ing the con­sent of 164 WTO mem­bers on the level of sub­si­dies for its farm­ers, for com­modi­ties such as beef, poul­try, or wheat, as well as pref­er­en­tial trade schemes for poorer coun­tries. While ne­go­ti­at­ing with the world, Bri­tain must also ne­go­ti­ate with its own farm­ers a new agri­cul­tural regime, which will be less pro­tec­tion­ist and pre­sum­ably more open to global com­pe­ti­tion.

EU agri­cul­tural sub­si­dies make up for 67 per­cent of farm in­come in the UK ac­cord­ing to a study com­mis­sioned by the Bri­tish Na­tional Farm­ing Union. Of course, these are not all fam­ily-run busi­nesses.

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