Back on the Agenda: Agricultural policy in the EU & UK
The UK’s decision to leave the European Union has major consequences for public policy on both sides of the Channel. It gives the UK the opportunity to develop new policies free from European influence and competence. As for the EU, the UK’s departure is likely to change the balance of power in both Council and Parliament. This panel investigates how Brexit is changing public policies by focusing on one of the oldest common European policy: agriculture.
After forty years within the Common Agricultural Policy, agricultural policy is back on the UK’s political agenda. Leaving the CAP is seen by many as an obvious Brexit dividend: one area of policy in which the UK, acting on its own, will do better than the EU In the EU conversely, Brexit raises concerns of potential roll-back of CAP reform after one of the staunchest advocate for reform leaves.
The papers investigate how Brexit is changing policies both in the UK and in the EU. On the EU side key questions are identifying what role the UK actually played in past CAP reforms and how its absence may be felt at all levels of CAP decision-making. On the UK side, the papers look at how agriculture and trade policies collide, the contested roles of the devolved administrations, the greater environmental ambition signaled by the UK's shift to a ‘public money for public goods’ model and how policy divergence within the UK and between the UK and EU may be managed.
Presentations of the Symposium
Building UK Agricultural Policies amid the Brexit Turbulence
The future shape of Brexit will depend on on how competences are shared, the budgets available as well as the regulatory margins of manoeuvre: within the UK, between the UK and EU and between the UK and the rest of the world. But two years in the Brexit negotiations, most of these questions remain unanswered. This Brexit uncertainty can be analysed as a situation of turbulence, what Ansell & Trondall call a ‘situations where events, demands, and support interact and change in highly variable, inconsistent, unexpected or unpredictable ways’ (2018:44).
While this turbulence effects are wide ranging, they are particularly felt in the farming sector. Agricultural actors have been used to long cycles of European funding since the 1970s which, in the UK, have been devolved twenty years ago. This paper builds on the three forms of turbulence identified by Ansell & Trondall: environmental turbulence, an external source of turbulence – epitomized by the EUref result -, organizational turbulence – illustrated by the administrative challenges of delivering Brexit and finally turbulence of scale both through the UK-EU negotiations and through the attempts at ‘co-designing’ policy between devolveds and central administrations. It uses this framework to analyse the policy proposals contained in the proposed agricultural policy frameworks in the 4 UK nations published in 2018 – are these policies able to withstand and adapt to the current turbulence?
Environmental and Social Resilience in UK and Devolved Agricultural Policies
Breaking from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the UK and its devolved nations will primarily support farmers under the following formula ‘public money for public goods’. Farmers will only be rewarded for the environmental and social outcomes they produce for the public’s benefits. This is part of a Green Brexit drive to modify the support farmers receive for the farming activities they undertake and move away from area/land-based payments (as they exist under the CAP). Small farmers will be particularly affected by the removal of direct payments post Brexit since they are heavily reliant on CAP payments.
The paper will assess whether the UK and devolved proposed policies will truly deliver a multifunctional agriculture promoting a sustainable and resilient agriculture where small, family farms play a central role to help biodiversity to thrive and rural areas to flourish. It will also evaluate whether the policies are compliant with international trade law obligations, especially the green commitments that must be fulfilled under the Agreement on Agriculture of the World Trade Organization.
This paper is based on a forthcoming book co-written by Petetin and Dobbs entitled ‘Brexit and Agricultural Law’ to be published by Routledge in 2019.
Brexit and Land-use on the Island of Ireland: Exploring the Potential Impacts of North-South Policy Divergence, Economic Conditions, and Social Factors on the Management of Trans-boundary Water-catchment Areas
Brexit is likely to trigger significant changes in the agri-food sector between Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain, including shifts in market conditions, industrial organisation, and policy, and may have a disproportionately significant impact on the island of Ireland due to its highly integrated agri-food sector and shared ecosystems. These challenges may in turn directly - and potentially negatively - impact current provision of ecosystem services in agriculture, and overall sustainability of the industry.
Many ecosystem services are transboundary in nature, meaning that changes to the provisioning of these services in the North can exhibit positive or negative externalities on the South, and vice versa. New regulatory regimes may also result in different standards across a single ecosystem, such as water catchment areas. One of the challenges for policy makers and farmers alike will be to determine how to weather upheavals in agriculture policy, practice and trade, in order that farmers on both sides of the border can collaboratively continue to survive, if not thrive, and that current efforts to support the provision of ecosystem services by the agriculture sector are not only sustained, but improved.
This paper will discuss the particular challenges farmers and policy makers may face in continuing to collaboratively manage shared, trans-boundary water catchment areas on the island of Ireland, post-Brexit. It will highlight two case studies in which the social, political and economic factors affecting land management in specific trans-boundary water catchment areas on the island are considered.
What Common Agricultural Policy after Brexit?
Suppose we were in 2028: what would the CAP look like then? Would it be significantly different from the policy we know today? How, and why? And to what extent would Brexit have catalyzed these changes?
The CAP is one of the founding policies of the EU and a strategic lever to address critical 21st-century challenges such as climate change and the rising demand for food at the global level, and, in Europe, the growing urban-rural divide and its potentially destabilizing impact on European politics. Against this background, an increasing issue of concern among reform-minded European policy-makers is that Brexit will pave the way for a more conservative CAP. With the departure of one of the most active exponents of CAP reform, many worry that the CAP could be stuck for years to come in some marginally different version of the current status quo or even less green, less liberal, and less innovation-focused policy. In this article, we examine the impact of Brexit from a political-economic perspective combining retrospective and prospective analysis. We start by outlining a three-level framework of CAP governance combining domestic, EU-level, and international determinants. This part emphasizes shifting combinations of international trade constraints, EU decision-making rules and budget politics, and the balance of (national) farm interests. We then examine the UK’s contribution to CAP reform within this multi-level framework of governance. We pay special attention to the way the UK has sought to influence the CAP through national implementation and EU-level bargaining related to CAP legislation, budget negotiations, and international trade negotiations. Finally, we draw out implications for the next decade, based on these elements and in light of scenarios for post-Brexit British agriculture policy (BAP), the loss of the UK net contribution to the EU budget and UK-EU future trade arrangements.