Driving debate on UK agricultural trade policy


Politicians and stakeholders from the farming sector will today hear from a leading Leeds professor on the future of trade regulation and how Brexit will impact future UK agricultural policy.

Fiona Smith, Professor in International Economic Law in the School of Law and Associate Director at the University's Global Food and Environment Institute, is on a high-profile panel at the influential Oxford Farming Conference.

Fellow panellists are Theresa Villiers MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Minette Batters, President of the National Farmers Union, and Craig Bennett, CEO of Friends of the Earth.

The event will be live streamed here and made available afterwards on the conference site.

An expert on international trade law in the World Trade Organisation, with a specialist research interest in international agricultural trade, Professor Smith will argue that UK agribusiness faces an unsettled trade environment after the UK leaves the EU on 31 January, and explore the risks and opportunities UK agribusiness faces in a post-Brexit world.

Without an EU-UK trade deal, and if trade deals with many other key non-EU countries remain unfinished, the UK faces an uncertain future.

Professor Fiona Smith

She said: “As the UK leaves the EU, there is no doubt that the basis on which the UK trades with the EU and the rest of the world will change, and there are significant uncertainties to navigate.

“The EU-UK Withdrawal Bill gives some stability for EU-UK agrifood trade until December, but Boris Johnson’s government is already facing a challenge from Northern Irish agribusiness over the Irish border arrangements that take effect if the EU and UK cannot agree a trade deal in time.”

A thought leader in trade

Professor Smith said the UK had opportunities to be a thought-leader in trade if it explored the full potential of trade agreements to meet key challenges of the 21st century.

“To be effective, the UK must align its international trade ambitions with its domestic priorities: at the moment, domestic agrifood trade policy seems to be pulled between the negotiating objectives of both the US and EU trade agreements,” she said.

“Whilst there are advantages to UK agribusiness of an agreement with both the USA and the EU, it is not entirely clear yet how the US and EU’s different regulatory regimes will fit with the UK’s domestic agricultural policy going forward.

“Without an EU-UK trade deal, and if trade deals with many other key non-EU countries remain unfinished, the UK faces an uncertain future. Whilst ‘trading on WTO rules’ is an option and the system remains strong for now, the WTO is facing ‘headwinds’ of its own.”

Professor Smith has served as Specialist Advisor to the House of Lords’ EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee for its report on Brexit and Agriculture. She has also given evidence to the House of Commons on the impact of Brexit on UK agricultural policy.

A radically different food system

Professor Smith is an Associate Director for International Food Supply Chains at the Global Food and Environment Institute (GFEI) at the University of Leeds.

An interdisciplinary research community bringing together a diverse membership from across academia, industry and public policy, the GFEI is working to create a radically different global food system – one that works in harmony with nature and provides everybody with access to safe and nutritious food.

The GFEI connects University staff and students conducting research across the entire food system with a large network of global partners. It further demonstrates the University’s commitment to supporting interdisciplinary research.

The institute is also leading the development of a digitally-connected smart farm and terrestrial observatory facility at the University. These facilities will support innovative and commercially-relevant agricultural, ecological, earth and environment research.

The University has also recently opened the new National Pig Centre, a leading research facility for pig nutrition, behaviour, health and production system research. This £11 million facility will help deliver the goals of the GFEI.

Further information

Harvest image by Hans Linde from Pixabay.

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