And the next chapter on Brexit begins…
More than three and a half years on from the referendum, we now have some degree of certainty on Brexit.
The UK Government’s Brexit Bill has completed its journey through the Houses of Parliament and has been granted Royal Assent. We’re set to leave the EU, officially, at 11pm on Friday 31st January 2020.
After years of debates, arguments, lawsuits, and extensions, the UK exit from the EU is now set in law.
Whether you’re in favour of Brexit or completely against it, the passing of this Bill means one thing; we can finally move the conversation forwards on to what happens next and how we’re going to operate outside of the EU. That is what our rural businesses need. That’s what farmers and land managers need. That’s what we all need to know.
As an organisation which focuses day in, day out on how we can support Scotland’s natural environment whilst also building a stronger rural economy, the next 11 months of the transitional period feels like a very short window to tackle the breadth and the complexity of issues that will impact rural Scotland.
Top of that list right now is trade. Scotland, and indeed the rest of the UK, has a reputation as world-leaders when it comes to food, farming and environmental standards, and we want to make sure this continues after we leave the EU and develop our own independent trade policy.
Earlier this week we were part of a broad coalition of 63 different farming, environmental, animal welfare and public health organisations who wrote to the Prime Minister urging his government to prioritise environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards in all trade negotiations.
We know that there will be intense pressure on British negotiators to make significant concessions on these issues when discussions on future relationships begin. We need the UK Government to stand firm on the assurances it has given to farming.
The UK Government made a manifesto commitment that “in all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards”, and we want to see this enshrined in law. Verbal commitments are not enough.
We have a chance to develop trade policy and deals which not only help support our rural businesses and communities, but which also address the challenges of climate change and loss of biodiversity. We must continue to lead the way in food, farming and environmental standards, and at the same time ensure that trade deal partners are held to the same high standards. A level playing field is vital.
There will be a lot of complex and detailed information circulating as the many deals and agreements are ironed out before the transition ends on 31st December 2020, so we must make sure Scottish voices are heard.
Major changes are coming for rural Scotland, and SLE will continue to play an integral role both in Holyrood and at Westminster to ensure that we get the best possible outcome for rural Scotland.