On publication of the White Paper on exiting from the EU, Ben Reynolds, Deputy Chief Executive of Sustain the alliance for better food and farming said that: “Whilst we applaud the ambitions to build a better Britain, the Government's white paper doesn't give the reassurance that what will come in the wake of Brexit won't lead to lower standards for consumers, workers and the environment.”
“Given the huge importance of the UK farm and food system to our economy and health and wellbeing, we welcome the commitment to design “new, better and more efficient policies for delivering sustainable and productive farming, land management and rural communities.”
"We hope the detail that follows this statement of intent from the Government backs up this position and that we don’t race towards becoming a bargain bin Britain, with lower quality standards in the food we eat and the farming we support.
“There must be no weakening of rules on environment, pesticides, animal welfare, workers rights or food safety to both protect public health and ecosystems but also to ensure we are able to continue to sell goods in global markets where such standards are expected. To ensure this we believe it is important to take time to design a new agriculture support system for farmers, which ensures a healthy environment and other public benefits, given the huge impact any policy changes will have on farm viability."
Ruth Westcott, Sustainable Fish Cities Coordinator commented: "Whilst it is encouraging that government are committed to a sustainable and profitable seafood sector and deliver a cleaner, healthier and more productive marine environment, there is no detail at all about how they will do this. Given that Government will be negotiating access to fishing in precious UK waters, they need to be much more explicit about setting all fishing rights based on science-based criteria, to ensure our already at risk fish stocks rebuild to sustainable levels, and our future marine resources aren’t sacrificed in favour of short term profitability.
“With so much at stake if we overfish our fragile stocks, Government must be clear that they will keep embrace a progressive fishing policy with EU partners. This means building on the standards already agreed between policy makers, the fishing sector and marine specialists especially on science-based catch limits, the discard ban, allocating quota on sustainability criteria and the Marine and Water framework directives”
However, Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, welcomed the report, saying: “The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation welcomes the Prime Minister’ s stated approach to the Brexit negotiations as one of anticipating success. Delivery of the White Paper vision of a world leading food industry is an ambition fully shared by the fishing sector.
“The goal is clear – to grasp the enormous opportunity that Brexit presents. The figures quoted in the White Paper illuminate the potential with EU vessels catching 683,000 tonnes (£484 million revenue) of fish in UK waters compared with UK vessels catching 111,000 tonnes (£114 million revenue) in EU waters.
“This is a world-class natural resource, for which full rights and responsibilities will transfer to the UK at the point of Brexit. It is a precious national asset that will last into perpetuity and which must not be traded away in the forthcoming negotiations.
“For fishing communities the length and breadth of the UK, Brexit is a golden opportunity - indeed a sea of opportunities - which we must not squander.”