CCRI Director, Janet Dwyer, was invited to give evidence relating to Brexit and agriculture to the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee at the National Assembly for Wales in Senedd on 21st May 2018.
In light of recent developments in the Article 50 negotiations, and progress at a UK-level towards establishing common UK policy frameworks, the Committee met to consider the implications for the Welsh economy and addressed a wide range of issues relating to agriculture. The Committee was chaired by David Rees AM.
Janet was involved in the first panel session and began her evidence by identifying many of the key challenges for Welsh agriculture and Welsh rural areas post-Brexit environment. These included:
- the future trading relationships that Wales and the UK will have with the European Union and then beyond that with other third countries;
- the level of future public funding for the agriculture sector and for rural areas through rural development funding;
- the broader rural economic conditions, which depend much more on the overall economic and social situation after Brexit and which will influence the above.
In respect of trade, Janet told the Committee that Wales is in a very unique position among the four devolved parts of the UK in that its agriculture is very much export-oriented and the largest part of the value of Welsh agricultural production is lamb, most of which is exported to Europe. She said that that puts it in a particular position as regards a future trading relationship with Europe, which means that barriers to trade between the UK and the European union become a concern for Welsh agriculture as a whole.
In other respects, Janet said that the opportunities that might arise from a post-Brexit situation for trade might be opportunities for growth in areas where, at the moment, the UK is dependent on imports from Europe. As an example, she mentioned horticulture and also opportunities in respect of dairy produce because, at the moment, the UK imports quite a lot of dairy products from Ireland and other parts of Europe. She also said that other opportunities might relate to knock-on changes as a result of changes within the agriculture sector in Wales. It’s possible to envisage a situation where more land becomes available for other uses as a result of a downturn in grazing livestock production because of the future trading relationship.
Janet acknowledged that all of that is very interdependent with what Wales is able to do for future support to the sector—future public support to the sector—and where money might be directed and for what purposes. The Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, has already signalled an intention to move away from support for agricultural production towards support for the provision of public goods, though Janet emphasised that uncertainties remain around how much money would be available and then exactly what range of public goods would be supported.
In this interesting and lively session, these issues and more were discussed at length, including the importance of rural businesses (other than agriculture) and tourism, and some important principles were established. Also involved in the morning panel session were Nerys Llewelyn Jones (Agri Advisor) and Professor Wyn Grant (Warwick University).
A second panel session followed, which involved Professor Tim Lang (City University), Professor Terry Marsden (Cardiff University) and Professor Peter Midmore (Aberystwyth University).