The government remains positive that the United Kingdom will officially leave the European Union in March 2019. With this there seems to be the belief that there will be a ‘transitional agreement’ put in place to allow the UK to disentangle itself from EU regulations and rules. This entanglement is most evident within the domestic agricultural policy which has effectively been exported to the EU since we first joined over 40 years ago.

Farmers are therefore rightly concerned in respect of what the future holds beyond 2019, despite the British government confirming that the level of funding will remain the same until 2022. But there has been no confirmation as to whether the rules for allocation of the funding will change. The simplest and easiest option for the British government would be to implement a system that mirrors the existing CAP to ensure that British farmers are not faced with a significant competitive disadvantage in relation to our European neighbours.

The opportunity for UK farming

However, with change there is always the possibility for creating opportunities. In this situation, it could be to establish a safer, greener, more efficient and more innovative farming sector similar to that in New Zealand. If the UK manages to seize this opportunity then the likes of the EU and the United States (with their highly protected agricultural sectors) might begin to follow suit.

For example, in New Zealand, where subsidies were removed in 1984, this change helped to catalyse innovation and diversification which is now the driving factor of the economic growth. However, the UK differs from New Zealand as subsidies there were only ever a short-term solution to new challenges, compared to our subsidies which are deeply entrenched within the agricultural sector.

Considering the future beyond 2022, the biggest fundamental concern is the extent of the access to the EU market for British farmers. It would be near impossible to negotiate new non-EU trade deals equivalent to those of the Single Market. Therefore, any transitional agreements are extremely important to the future of trade for British farmers. Hence, it is likely that periods of uncertainty will continue beyond the UK’s departure in March 2019.

To gain our advice on the issues in this article or any other rural planning and development matters, call Richard Edge or Alex Orttewell on 01935 852170 or email