Level playing field provisions in the EU-UK TCA

My previous post discussed the general background to the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) and specifically its provisions on tariffs and non-tariff barriers.  An innovative part of the Agreement concerns what are called ‘level playing field’ provisions in various areas including state aids, taxation, competition policy, labour standards, and environmental protection and climate change.

By demanding that the Agreement address these issues, the EU wanted to avoid a situation where the UK could use government subsidies, a more beneficial tax regime or more lenient regulatory standards to give its producers an unfair advantage in competing with EU producers in the tariff-free free trade area.

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The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement

Let us be clear at the outset. Brexit was always going to be a lose-lose situation for both the UK and the EU. Having said that, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) agreed on Christmas Eve between the UK and the EU which provisionally entered into force on 1 January this year was a very significant achievement for the two negotiating teams.

It represents a significant improvement over the ‘no deal’ Brexit that had threatened in the previous weeks. Critically, it prevents the imposition of tariffs on UK-EU trade, although subject to rules of origin to determine eligibility for the zero-tariff preferences.

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Eco-schemes a work in progress

This post is written jointly with Dr. Norbert Röder of the Thünen Institute Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries.

Eco-schemes (schemes for the environment and climate) are the main innovation in the green architecture of the CAP proposed by the Commission in its draft CAP Strategic Plan Regulation in June 2018. As mandatory instruments, they would oblige Member States to allocate a proportion of their Pillar 1 payments to schemes that would directly benefit the environment and climate. Participation would be limited to genuine farmers but would be voluntary for them.

Both the Council and Parliament have proposed amendments to the Commission’s original proposal.

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COVID-19 leaves limited traces in preliminary 2020 agricultural accounts

Eurostat has now published its preliminary estimates for the economic accounts for agriculture in the EU for 2020. This gives us the first authoritative overview of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on agricultural markets and farm incomes in what has been an extraordinary year. Until now, information on monthly trends in agricultural prices and agricultural trade has given us some partial insights into the impact of COVID-19 on the agricultural sector. Despite wobbles in some sectors, by and large these indicators show that the agricultural sector has been remarkably resilient. Despite this, significant aid packages have been made available to farmers by EU Member States.

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Farm consolidation continues

How farms are structured in the EU has become the focus of increasing attention as a result of growing political concern over trends in farm consolidation and farmland concentration. This political interest has focused on different elements of structural change in EU agriculture. For some, the focus has been on land grabbing and the rise of large-scale land deals; for others, it is safeguarding the position of the family farm; for some, it is opposition to industrial farming and the growth of ‘mega’ farms; for others, it is defence of small farms, often seen as integral to food sovereignty; for some, the issue is generational renewal; while yet others focus on the decline in the overall number of farms.

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