Potential Implications of leaving the EU for UK agriculture and the rural environment

In light of the decision by the UK to leave the EU, this report considers the potential impacts of changing agricultural policies and the new post-CAP context on the farmed environment in the UK. It does so through a series of five exploratory scenarios, setting out alternative pathways for the agricultural sector in the UK over the next ten years and beyond.

To set these in context, the report begins with an outline of the evidence of the environmental sustainability of agriculture in different parts of the UK and some of the issues to be confronted in future. The potential role of international environmental legislation and agreements in influencing domestic policy is then considered along with some of the implications of the changes likely to arise in this policy sphere following the UK’s departure from the EU.

The scenarios chosen reflect a range of factors that could drive future developments (including possible agricultural policy and market shifts, governance and institutional arrangements and environmental ambition). These provide a framework for discussing some of the key environmental risks and challenges which lie ahead.

The report concludes with a summary of the implications of these findings for future negotiations and discussions within the UK as well as some suggestions on next steps. It is suggested that:

  • The agriculture sector is likely to enter a period of greater uncertainty in the future with implications for farming, land use and the environment;
  • Depending partly on the scenario and the policy choices made, there could be both opportunities and risks for the environment. The grazing livestock sector looks likely to experience the most significant changes, creating environmental risks for low intensity grazing systems of high nature value;
  • The key role of regulation in future, coupled with the resources devoted to ensuring its effective implementation is a recurrent theme under all of the scenarios. So is the level of funding available for agri-environmental incentive schemes; both innovative and more established  approaches are likely to be required;
  • Having good governance models and tools in place will be critical to manage this process of change;
  • Capacity is required to enable analysis and forecasting of likely land management and environmental changes and assessments of policy impacts, as well as enhanced engagement with the full range of rural stakeholders and the private sector, the role of which is likely to grow;
  • The scenarios are a reminder of the possibility of different policy responses emerging across the four UK countries, highlighting the need to anticipate what issues could arise as a result of this and to plan accordingly in light of the nature of the various devolution settlements.

This report was commissioned by the UK Land Use Policy Group (LUPG)* as a contribution to the debate on future policy trajectories in the UK for the agricultural sector once outside the CAP and the implications these have for the rural environment.

* The LUPG comprises Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Environment Agency, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

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