One of the biggest difficulties in trying to assess the likely impact of Britain leaving the European Union (EU) is that we don’t yet know what form “Brexit” will take.
What is not in doubt, however, is that no other sectors of our economy are likely to feel the consequences of the UK’s vote to leave the EU quite so keenly as agriculture, food and the environment.
Last year, UK farmers received £2.4 billion from the EU in direct subsidies, with a further £5.2 billion allocated to rural development. Over 50% of total farming income in the UK currently comes via subsidies from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. That incredible fact is in itself clear evidence that Britain’s agricultural sector is based upon an unsustainable footing, but those massive EU subsidies will need to be replaced post-Brexit or we will quickly see many British farmers going out of business, followed by the collapse of our agricultural industry.
Even without the uncertainty created by the prospect of Brexit the UK already has serious food security problems. We currently grow only around 54% of the food we consume. Three quarters of the shortfall is made up by food imported from the EU.
Currently, the rules surrounding our other food imports come under Free Trade Agreements negotiated by the EU. Post-Brexit these Free Trade Agreements will no longer be accessible to the UK. In their place, our trade with other countries would be subject to a series of bilateral agreements under the World Trade Organisation’s regulatory framework. Since the UK will not have anywhere near the combined economic negotiating strength of the 27 remaining countries of the EU, the cost of trading with other nations for our food imports under WTO regulations is certain to increase. This will mean the price of our food will rise, a predicament that will be exacerbated by continued post- Brexit weakness of the pound on international currency markets.
Then there is the issue of free movement of workers within the EU. There was clear disagreement about this even amongst those who campaigned for a “Leave” vote, some of whom were implacably opposed to the principle of free movement whilst others suggested that the UK would need to accept some form of free movement in order to be able to access the EU single market.
If the “Leave” hardliners have their way, and Britain chooses not to stay signed up to the EU free movement agreement, it would have further repercussions for the agricultural and food industries. Twenty five per cent of the workforce in these sectors is made up of workers from EU countries – low paid fruit and vegetable planters and pickers, and packers in factories. Where will their replacements be found?
When Britain first joined the EU it was known as the “Dirty Man of Europe” because of its shameful reputation as a polluting nation. Back then, raw sewage was routinely pumped into the sea around our coastline. Our coal-fired power stations caused environmental damage (in the form of “acid rain”) to forests across the rest of Europe. For many years the UK was the only EU country that failed to implement directives on nitrate pollution and pesticide controls in farming.
Whilst EU membership has gradually civilised and cleaned up the UK’s act, the simple truth is that in return we have been at best a half hearted, often resentful, EU partner nation. All too often during our 43 years as a member of the EU our governments have done their best to resist and water down agreed EU policy. We have a poor record of upholding the health, safety and welfare of our citizens and safeguarding the environment they live and work in. Now, as we face the prospect of losing the steadying hand of European long term cooperation, there is every reason to fear that the UK government will revert to type, cutting any legislative corners it can get away with.
For all its faults, the EU has had a positive impact on our lives. When it came to food and environmental policy it often filled in the gaps left by short-termist UK governments. It imposed restrictions on the growing of genetically modified organisms in member states. It brought in compulsory food labelling and nutritional information on processed foods, legislation on air quality and biodiversity, penalties for environmental damage caused by excessive use of pesticides and other chemicals on farms. It funded UK rural development and encouraged local food designation and identification.
As citizens, consumers, conservationists, public health and animal welfare campaigners, those of us grieving over the Brexit result must resolve to bridge the gap it will create. That means challenging, rigorously and fearlessly, any attempt by current and future UK governments to undermine the important safeguards that now protect our food, our environment and our health, benefits that membership of the EU has helped provide.
That’s enough ranting for now. On to the recipe.
This delicious vegan crumble recipe combines the complimentary flavours of cherry, pistachio and almonds. Cooking the fruit and the crumble separately ensures you don’t end up with overcooked fruit or soggy crumble.
Serve this dessert with vegan ice cream or vegan cream.
cherry, almond and pistachio crumble
750g cherries, stoned
75 ml maple syrup
2 star anise
1 tbsp kirsch
for the crumble topping
125 g almond kernels
125 g pistachio kernels
125 g rice flour
90 g maple syrup
90 g cold pressed organic coconut oil
1. Pre heat the oven to 170°C (325°F, gas mark 3).
2. For the crumble topping, place the almond and pistachio kernels in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped.
3. Melt the coconut oil in a saucepan over a low heat. Place the rice flour, maple syrup, ground almonds and pistachios in a bowl and pour in the melted coconut oil. Mix to combine. Spread this evenly across a flat baking tray and place in the pre-heated oven for around 25 minutes, or until the crumble is an even golden brown colour. Check periodically, gently turning the crumble each time to ensure it is evenly cooked. Remove from the oven and set to one side.
4. For the filling, place the cherries, maple syrup and star anise in a pan over a low heat. Place a lid on the pan and cooke for 10 minutes, lifting the lid and stirring frequently. Remove from the heat, remove the star anise and stir in the kirsch.
5. To serve, gently warm the cherry compote mixture. Spoon it onto plates or bowls, topped with the crumble.
Categories: dairy free, gluten free, vegan
Tags: Common Agricultural Policy, European Union, nitrates, pesticides
25 replies ›
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Definitely lot of challenges and uncertainty over “Brexit”.
If only all rants could be as clear as this one. Plus, great recipe.
Thank you Debi x
Excellent overview of the consequences of Brexit. Great recipe too.
Thank you Peggy x
Interesting thoughts. . .but like most Remain commentators, they focus on what is best for British, or possibly European, consumers and producers. There is a big world out there, and EU agricultural policies have had an increasingly devastating impact on agriculture in developing countries as EU agri-business has sought to expand.
Many thanks for commenting, David. As you may be aware, in previous posts on this blog I have been highly critical of the EU, and in particular its agricultural policies, which have often rewarded overproduction and exacerbated global inequalities. For me, however, the best way to challenge and change this is as a participating and crusading member of the EU. The UK going it alone will do little to address the problems of inequality and exploitation, even if the political will was there, which currently it is not. Steve
A beautiful rant and a beautiful recipe.
Thank you Amanda x
Great article. Will be interesting to see how Andrea Leadsom grapples with some of these issues… Lovely recipe too
Thank you. What little I understand of Andrea Leadsom’s views on environmental issues – pro-fracking, pro-badger cull, pro-fox hunting, anti-carbon emissions targets – does not fill me with any confidence. 🙁
I was attracted by the recipe but I am pleased I read the rant. All of us who care about the environment in this country cant feel but defeated. I was dismayed that in the campaign the environment and climate change were not at the top of the agenda.
Thank you. I fear that the virtual absence of discussion about the environment during the referendum campaign pretty much tells us the level of priority it will have with UK politicians once we leave the EU.
It’s difficult to clear clear and considered information from the media about the impact of Brexit, thanks for your well considered insights and delicious recipe.
Thank you Sandra x
I have read quite a few “deep articles…” on BRexit which purports to imagine how it might unfold for the UK in a global scenario.
No article has had the deep insight and clarity your message has into food supply and the environment.
I can only hope politicians and the people of Britain listen to what you have to say.
These are just some initial observations and thoughts, but thank you for your kind comments 🙂
In Australia, our government doesn’t support our farmers; primary industry has fled overseas,where production is cheaper. More and more we are relying on others for our goods. Politicians should be made accountable for their failures. (Something more than just being voted out.) Even so, I think there’s something terribly wrong with losing one’s identity. Wronger still that it’s not even missed. Britain might find things hard for a while because it has been used to be told what to do and what’s right and what’s wrong. Give it a generation and people may even get to like thinking for itself.
Thanks for the delicious recipe.
Thank you for your comments.
UK politics has been in utter turmoil post-Brexit. It was a result few expected and no one seems to be able to articulate what Brexit will actually look like. I didn’t hear anyone talking about agriculture, food security and environmental protection during the referendum debate, but these are hugely important consequences that we must now start to face.
I don’t agree that Britain had lost its identity within the EU, nor that it was being told what to do. It certainly failed to engage fully and to be the force for democratic change that it could and should have been.
In the UK over the coming years we can expect fracking to be given greater encouragement while renewable energy will be further under-invested. GMOs will be given the green light and environmental protection and health and safety legislation will begin to be watered down. Politicians on the ruling right have made clear that in the post-Brexit longer term they will look to dismantle human rights legislation and workers’ rights.
You may well be right that in a generation we will be fine outside the EU and perhaps my perspective is too bleak, but my fear is that successive UK governments will by then have created food security, workforce and environmental problems of such magnitude that cleaning up the mess will be the major preoccupation of that next generation.
Reblogged this on Chef Ceaser.