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Brexit will take a bite out of food budgets, report warns

The UK should create a new Food Brexit Framework to minimise the challenges to food security after departure from the European Union, according to a report for the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex.

A Food Brexit: Time to get real, published on 17 July, was written by Erik Millstone, professor in science and technology policy at the University of Sussex; Tim Lang, a professor of food policy at City University of London; and Terry Marsden, professor of environmental policy and planning at Cardiff University. 

Their study claims that ministers are “sleepwalking” towards a Brexit that could have enormous implications for food security due to the Europeanisation of consumer tastes and increased import costs. It argues that it’s impossible to avoid some of the consequences by March 2019.

One of the main issues outlined in the report is that the UK sources much of its food from within the EU. Following the decision to leave the union, sterling has plummeted in value against the Euro while overall food price inflation is rising.

Another concern is that the UK has no national and regional food policy, although Scotland and Wales have been developing ideas in this area. The report suggests that the UK could be left with a “mishmash of policies” once EU frameworks are removed.

The authors  urge civil bodies, academics and othes to back a Food Brexit Framework that would identify food as a central–and cross departmental–element of UK public policy.

Commenting on a possible timeframe for the proposed strategy, Millstone told Research Fortnight: "The framework ought to be created before the UK leaves the EU in order to avoid the deterioration of food supply and demand."

The framework would need devolved authority support, rather than being a concern of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs or any other single department.

Furthermore, a Standing Commission on Food and Agricultural Policy should be established, consisting of MPs, officials, business, and representatives of civil society groups, communities and devolved sectors, the authors say. 

Among the core roles for the proposed commission would be agreeing action plans, setting sectoral targets and performance measures and holding ministers to account for failings.

The report suggests that these targets should be aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations-sponsored framework for tackling global problems such as poverty and hunger.

Targets could also be based on the Paris Climate Change agreement and environmental legislation, it says.  

After Brexit the government should seek an integrated policy incorporating a revised agricultural policy, energy, health, education and training, economic development, community regeneration, and creative green and circular procurement policies.

Lang said: “Food is the biggest slice of EU-related regulations and laws, yet so far the government has only sketchily flagged a new Agriculture Act and Fisheries Act in the Queen’s Speech.

“The government has provided next to no details on agriculture and fisheries, and there has been total silence on the rest of the food chain where most employment, value adding and consumer choice are made. With the Brexit deadline in 20 months, this is a serious policy failure on an unprecedented scale. Anyone would think they want to drop into the World Trade Organisation abyss.”

 

UK > Politics > Parliament

 

Lords debate EU migration to UK

The House of Lords home affairs select committee is to consider possible immigration rules for European Union citizens relocating to the UK after Britain has left the bloc.

The debate follows a report by the Lords' European Union committee, Brexit: UK-EU movement of people, published on 6 March. The report identifies policy options available to government and their implications for UK citizens wishing to live in the EU and vice versa.

Crossbencher Usha Prashar, former chairwoman of the EU home affairs sub-committee, was scheduled to open the debate on the report later today. Susan Williams, minister of state at the Home Office, will respond on behalf of the government, it announced on 14 July.

One topic due to be discussed is the need to improve the evidence base before introducing a skill-based immigration policy, like that currently in place in the UK for non-EU nationals.

The committee hopes to discourage the government from applying the UK’s non-EU work permit system to EU nationals. This is based on advice from public and private sector employers' groups: “They warned that this would disproportionately affect some employers' ability to sponsor EU workers, and could result in labour shortages."

In light of the government seeking a “two-way agreement” with the EU on migration flows, the committee believes such a deal could influence an agreement on access to the single market. Therefore, it said, additional policy options on immigration shouldn’t be cast aside ahead of negotiations with the EU-27.

 

Open for applications: the Health Foundation’s £1.6 million Insight 2017 programme is a researcher-led open call for research that advances the development and use of data from national clinical audits and patient registries to improve health care quality in the UK. Closing date: Tuesday 25 July 2017.

 

UK > Politics > Whitehall

 

NIHR seeks peer reviewers

The National Institute for Health Research is recruiting medical scientists, practitioners and lay people to join its pool of peer reviewers.

Interested parties can apply as an individual with professional experience or as a patient, carer or member of the public.

In particular, the institute is looking for candidates from within the health service with expertise as academics, clinicians, health service managers, practitioners and public health professionals. It is also looking for individuals working in social care, patients, the general public and others whose work could impact on health.

A deadline for applications has not been specified.

 

UK > Universities

 

Coventry University appoints black woman chancellor

Margaret Casely-Hayford, the first woman of colour to be made a partner at a City of London law company, has been named the first female chancellor of the University of Coventry.

Casely-Hayford will succeed John Egan, who has held the post for 10 years, the university announced on 17 July.

She is currently the chairwoman of ActionAid UK and a board member of the Co-op retail chain. It is unknown whether these roles will continue simultaneously.

Her business background includes being the director of legal services at the John Lewis Partnership from 2006 to 2014, acting as a non-executive director of NHS England, and championing the inclusion of young people, women and ethnic minorities on boards of directors.

Casely-Hayford said: “Coventry is an energetic university which dares to be different and where social mobility and inclusion complement a truly entrepreneurial spirit."

“It shares my commitment to equality of opportunity and I will be shouting out Coventry’s message that a university can be world-class while admitting talented students from a range of backgrounds."

 

UK > Charities & Societies

 

Move cautiously on biofuel development, UK warned

The UK should adopt a risk-based approach to biofuel policies until a deeper understanding of the environmental issues has been established, the Royal Academy of Engineering has warned.

In its report, the Sustainability of Liquid Biofuels, published on 14 July, the academy urged the government to adopts several priorities in UK biofuel production to minimise environmental harm.

It also noted that the UK will need to decide on its national policies and their relationship to EU biofuels directives and regulations. 

The government should carry out further studies to inform biofuels policies, it said. This might include regional assessments of biofuel production, certification systems, and exploring the social and economic impacts. 

One important area for the government to address is strengthening the assessment procedures through which existing certification schemes are recognised by the European Commission, the RAEng says. It must also ensure that the certification of biofuel supply chains is maintained when the UK leaves the EU. 

In the short term, the government should incentivise the development of first-generation biofuels, such as those derived from food industry waste and agricultural, forest and sawmill residues.

Second-generation biofuels, also known as advanced biofuels, include materials derived from dedicated energy crops such as switchgrass and short-rotation coppicing.

In addition, they cover wood waste, other waste material such as cooking oil, and other feedstock that cannot be used as food. 

The academy recommended that the government set a cap for the supply of all crop-based biofuels to reduce the risk of indirect land-use change.  

It could also incentivise the use of marginal land that is unsuitable for food production or degraded through deforestation to produce biofuels. Equally, it should create disincentives to growing feedstocks that may drive unsustainable land-use change, by way of deforestation or peat land drainage, the report said. 

 

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