Scientists at the University of York have proposed a list of measures to mitigate the environmental impact of Brexit on the UK’s farms and fisheries.
In their report, ‘Making Brexit work for the environment and livelihoods: delivering a stakeholder informed vision for agriculture and fisheries’, published in the People and Nature journal, the researchers detail plans for an ‘ecosystem-based’ approach to minimising the risk of a negative environmental impact of Brexit. The paper highlights the need to protect the UK’s natural assets and promote sustainable agriculture and fishing practices, as well as maintaining close ties with the remaining EU Member States, in order to optimise both the return on its farming and fishing industries and preserve the natural environment; but cautions that a no-deal Brexit will significantly hinder the sustainability and industrial viability of the UK’s fishing and agriculture sectors.
Dr Bryce Stewart of the Department of Environment and Geography at the University of York, the study’s lead author, said: “The UK has a rare opportunity to rewrite the rulebook to focus on effective agricultural, environmental and fisheries management and become a world-leader in these spheres. However, we have grave concerns about a no-deal Brexit across the board. For example, in the fishing industry the imposition of WTO rules could lead to tariffs of 7.5% to 24% on seafood exported to the EU. With widespread agreement that a no-deal Brexit will lead to a decline in economic growth, the resources and political will to deliver on sustainable practices may also be in short supply.”
The report’s recommendations include:
- Prioritising sustainability and responsible land use in the agricultural sector;
- Updating farming subsidies to incentivise farmers to produce goods which benefit society and the natural environment;
- Developing closer partnerships between fisheries and scientists to improve maintenance of fish stocks; and
- Continuing to preserve the UK’s extensive Marine Protected Areas.
Professor Charlotte Burns of the University of Sheffield, joint lead author of the study, said: “Significant challenges lie ahead. In the face of continued uncertainty over Brexit, much of the UK’s new policy on the environment, agriculture and fisheries is currently ambitious in vision but light on detail. There is also a risk that leaving the EU will weaken existing environmental protection. The development of innovative policies, with significant input from the major players in the industries across UK countries, will therefore be essential for ensuring environmental sustainability and prosperity after Brexit.”