Associate Fellow, Energy, Environment and Resources Department

Implementing a sustainable, market-orientated agricultural policy is a genuine opportunity for UK global leadership outside the EU in the next decade.

Farmer Mark Thomas shows his prizewinning champion South Devon bull in the show ring on the first day of the Royal Cornwall Show near Wadebridge on 9 June 2016, in Cornwall, England. Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images.Farmer Mark Thomas shows his prizewinning champion South Devon bull on the first day of the Royal Cornwall Show on 9 June 2016, in Cornwall, England. Photo: Getty Images.
  • The UK will need new agricultural policies in almost every potential Brexit outcome. In high-income countries, there are four broad agricultural policy models in use at present, all of which are possible options for the UK. The chosen model will need to cope with a range of global challenges: climate change; rising risk of animal disease; downward trends in commodity prices; and shifts in demand from changing diets.
  • There seems no real prospect of substantial reform of the EU agricultural model in the next decade, and there exists the risk of a regression away from its current ‘decoupled’ approach towards a more protective and distortive one. However, EU budget pressures from Brexit, migration and security, which are likely to reduce agriculture’s current 40 per cent share of the EU budget, could trigger some policy changes.
  • For the UK, only a market-oriented model – aligned and integrated with a more effective commitment to the environment and climate change mitigation – would enable the country to benefit from free trade while keeping the government’s promise to improve the environment for the next generation.
  • Applying the market-oriented model in the UK would lower prices for consumers, lift the economy’s productivity and allow for substantial budget savings to support the environment and public finances. Still, it would mean significant disruption for agricultural producers and the political challenge of market reform should not be underestimated.
  • If the UK pursues the market-oriented model of agriculture that its tradition suggests, this could mark an important medium-term shift in attitudes to such a model among members of the WTO and the G20. Implementing a sustainable, market-oriented agricultural policy is a genuine opportunity for UK global leadership outside the EU in the next decade.