The Brexit negotiations on the future trade relationship

On 23 March 2018, the European Council in its Art. 50 formation welcomed the agreement reached earlier last week by the negotiators on parts of the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement covering citizens’ rights, the financial settlement, a number of other withdrawal issues and the transition. Prime Minister May wrote following that agreement to European Council President Donald Tusk giving her full support to the draft Agreement and highlighting, in particular, her support for efforts to solve the Ireland border issue. The European Council was therefore willing to set out its guidelines with a view to the opening of negotiations on the overall understanding of the framework for the future relationship, which will be elaborated in a political declaration accompanying and referred to in the Withdrawal Agreement.… Read the rest

Which EU countries will bear the brunt of a hard Brexit?

The withdrawal of the UK from the EU (Brexit) will have a negative economic effect both for the UK but also for the EU. The size of these negative effects will depend, in part, on the nature of the future trade relationship that may be negotiated if the Article 50 negotiations on withdrawal are successfully concluded and, in part, on the nature of the transition arrangements, if any, that may be agreed to bridge the period between Brexit Day and the entry into force of a future trade agreement.
The UK government’s objective for the long-term relationship remains that set out in the Lancaster House speech last January, namely, withdrawal from the Single Market and from any type of customs union with the EU, but agreement on an ambitious free trade agreement.… Read the rest

WTO dimensions of a UK 'Brexit' and agricultural trade

Following a first round of discussions on UK demands for a renegotiation of the terms of its membership of the EU at the European Council meeting last month, it now seems that the February meeting of the Council will agree on some package of measures and promises in response to UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s demands. It will then be up to Cameron to decide if this package is sufficient for him to campaign to stay in the EU in the referendum promised to take place before the end of 2017 and possibly later this year.

Even if Cameron decides to campaign in favour of staying in, there is no guarantee that the UK voters will follow him.… Read the rest

UK Brexit and agriculture

I wrote a post last January on the agricultural implications of a British withdrawal from the EU (Brexit) for agriculture in the rest of the EU. Following submission of evidence to an Irish Parliamentary Committee on the implications of Brexit specifically for the Irish agri-food sector, I have developed the possible scenarios into a longer paper which can be downloaded here.
Although the discussion concentrates on the potential impact on the Irish agri-food sector, the early part of the paper discusses the possible alternative trade arrangements between the UK and the rest of the EU following a potential Brexit which might be of wider interest.… Read the rest

The UK milk ‘crisis’ – fact or fiction?

Reading the UK press over the past few weeks it appears that the UK dairy industry is on its last legs and that UK dairying will soon become an extinct species. The Daily Mail reports that “campaigners warned it was the worst crisis the industry has ever seen”. At the other end of the political spectrum, the Guardian headlines its story “No whey forward – future of Britain’s dairy industry hangs in the balance” and goes on to claim “Years of falling milk prices could spell an end to the fresh, safely produced dairy products we take for granted.”
According to Rob Harrison, the chairman of the NFU’s dairy board, in The Telegraph: “Being a dairy farmer at the moment is like being a boxer – on the ropes and taking body blow after body blow.… Read the rest

Agricultural implications of British EU withdrawal for rest of the EU

This Sunday, the Greek general election may decide if Greece will leave the Eurozone, sometimes referred to as Grexit. None of the likely winners of the election, including Syriza, want this, but if there is an unwillingness to address the restructuring of Greek debt, particularly given Syriza’s promises to dramatically increase public spending, this could be the outcome. Whether Greece would then remain a member of the EU if this were to happen is uncertain, with The Economist arguing this week that, in all likelihood, Greece would have to leave the EU as well.
Later this year, on 7 May, the British general election takes place.… Read the rest

Cross compliance for labour laws?

The Global Mail reports on a shocking case of alleged abuses of migrant workers in the Spanish horticulture industry, concentrated in the southern Spanish region of Almería along a 200km strip of hothouses known as el mar de plásticos. This is where much of Europe’s salad vegetable crop is grown.

Allegations range from payment below the minimum wage, employment of illegal migrants, intimidation and, in the most recent case, murder. The UK’s Guardian newspaper’s special correspondent Felicity Lawrence wrote a startling report into labour abuses in €2 billion a year hothouse industry. She found:

Migrant workers from Africa living in shacks made of old boxes and plastic sheeting, without sanitation or access to drinking water.

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Sustainable intenstification

It’s the new buzzword in agriculture, confirmed by proceedings at the 2011 annual conference of the UK’s National Farmers Union, where delegates were often found to be talking about ‘how to get more from less’.

The term ‘sustainable intensification’ began to gain real currency following a report by the UK’s Royal Society, Reaping the benefits: Science and the sustainable intensification of global agriculture. The thrust of the argument is that the old ways of increasing global food production – bring more land under the plough and adopt the high input, high output technologies of the green revolution – will not work in the 21st century.… Read the rest

Sarkozy and Cameron on collision course?

David Cameron, leader of a British Conservative Party that is well ahead in the opinion polls just weeks ahead of a General Election, has already ruffled feathers across La Manche, with reported jibes about the diminutive stature of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is reeling from personal life scandals and a drubbing in regional elections. The remarks provoked a reaction from Paris, which accused the British Opposion leader of lacking respect for the French Head of State.

Such a trifling spat may be just the start of a tricky Anglo-French relationship over the future of EU budget, in particular the €60 billion common agricultural policy and Britain’s special budget rebate.… Read the rest

BBC Documentary: A Farm for the Future

A Farm For the Future is a documentary that aired on the BBC last year. It explains just how oil-dependent our agriculture is: every calorie of food produced in the western world requires ten calories of fossil fuel energy. The film looks at the challenge of dwindling oil supplies and tries to find out what kind of farming – and food – might we be expected to see in a post-peak oil world. The answer? Permaculture and more nuts.

The film is available on Youtube in five parts.

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