Need for orderly EU exit and climate change concerns high in industry reaction to Boris Johnson leadership win

Industry figures have highlighted the need for an orderly exit from the EU in their reactions to the appointment of former London mayor and foreign secretary Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader.

Johnson is set to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister on Wednesday.

In June, nursery owners expressed concern about Johnson's attitude to a hard Brexit. He has insisted that the UK must leave the EU with or without a deal by 31 October.

NFU President Minette Batters urged Johnson to do everything in his power to ensure that the UK's departure from the EU is carried out in a smooth and orderly way.

The NFU says an orderly departure, that includes free and frictionless trade with the EU, is crucial in "delivering the best outcome for British food production".

Leaving the EU with a trade deal is "vital to allow farm businesses and Britain’s food producers to have a viable and sustainable future – continuing to produce food to some of the highest global standards whilst at the same time protecting the iconic British natural environment".

In a letter to the incoming Prime Minister, the NFU is highlighting five additional policy priorities for the new Government:

  • Stimulating farm business competitiveness and innovation through policies that ensure British farming is a leader in its field and result in a more resilient and advanced sector
  • Rising to the challenges of tackling climate change through concerted government effort now to put in place the policies to help deliver the NFU’s ambition to reach net zero by 2040
  • Promoting our high food standards through trade policy, building a globally recognised British Food Brand and ensuring our high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection are not undermined by trade deals that allows imports of food that would be illegal to produce in the UK.
  • Ensuring an adequate supply of labour by delivering a future immigration system that is fit for purpose and recognises the specific needs and challenges of agriculture and horticulture
  • A long-term budgetary commitment for food and farming through a new agricultural policy that rewards farmers fairly for delivering public goods, supports stability and resilience, and provides funding that recognises the long, multi-annual timeframes farmers and growers operate to.

Batters said: "British farming is one of the nation’s most important assets, delivering safe, traceable and affordable food to millions, all while taking care of the beautiful countryside we have such great pride in. It underpins the nation’s largest manufacturing sector, food and drink, contributing more than £120 billion to the economy and employing almost four million people.

"To achieve the best outcome from Brexit, we need to leave the EU in a smooth and orderly way. A deal with the EU is crucial to maintaining free trade with our closest neighbours and largest trading partners, as well as access to people that want to come to the UK to work on farms.

"Mr Johnson has an opportunity to develop a new agricultural policy that works for Britain by creating a sustainable, vibrant and competitive future for our farming sector.

"We need to see policies that allow farm businesses to innovate, that help farmers rise to the challenge of tackling climate change, that enable farms access to the workers that pick, pack and grade our fruit, veg and flowers, and crucially an Agriculture Bill that is fit for purpose for the rising challenges of food production.

Chair of The Parks Alliance Matthew Bradbury said he hoped that environment secretary Michael Gove would remain at Defra where he has done a good job with the Environment Plan. "I worry that if Gove is moved I think that maybe an issue and our Prime Minister needs to remain very focused on the environment.

"A lot of things that Gove was doing and put in place with the Defra family may not come to fruition. The risk is we lose momentum and also lose support if we get another minister who doesn’t really understand the environment. We lose three or four years of good work." 

Bradbury’s second concern is that momentum built up following the Parks Inquiry and the work done by the Parks Action Group, of which The Parks Alliance is a member, will be lost. "I don’t sense that it’s had much political ministerial support," he said. "It would be good to see a more proactive approach to parks, particularly the social, health and well-being benefits they have to offer and the money they save the NHS." 

He acknowledged that some of the work which has led to parks and green space enjoying its current status at the mayor of London’s office was done during Johnson’s tenure, through the Big Green Fund, which funded Walthamstow Wetlands and the Pocket Parks scheme. This week London became the first National Park City under current mayor Sadiq Khan. 

HTA policy and communications director James Clark said: "Having a strong and vibrant horticultural industry is essential to underwriting the Government’s 25 year Environment Plan, its biosecurity ambitions and to help mitigate the fundamental concerns of climate change. During his time as London Mayor Mr Johnson has shown himself to be an advocate of green spaces and the positive impact plants have on our well-being. We urge the new Prime Minister to continue to keep sustainability and climate change as a high priority for his Government and look forward to working with him to make Britain a greener nation."

Tim Breitmeyer President of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) said: "The rhetoric of No Deal must not be allowed to become the political default option. So too must the EU realise that the political dynamic has changed in the UK, and that a return to the negotiation table is the best way to ensure a smooth and orderly transition.

"In the long term it will be possible for rural businesses to adapt to the changing political landscape, just as they always have done. But for the immediate future, the uncertainty is deeply concerning and brings in to sharp focus the need for a long term funding settlement to replace the Common Agricultural Policy. This would provide much needed reassurance for farmers in uncertain times.

"The UK has a growing global reputation for its food production. In any future trade discussions our high standards must not be up for negotiation. Quite the opposite. They are our biggest selling point, and the Government must fly the flag for British produce loudly and proudly."

RIBA chief executive  Alan Vallance, said: "Boris Johnson has a mammoth task on his hands as soon as he enters No.10. Brexit, climate change and ensuring the UK has a safer, high-quality built environment must be priorities.

"The global climate emergency is the greatest challenge the world has ever faced. With 40% of carbon emissions generated from the built environment, the PM must recognise how vital our profession is to ensure the UK meets the net zero target.

"Whether the UK should leave the EU without a withdrawal agreement has dominated this leadership contest. No deal would have disastrous consequences for UK architecture, risking access to talent and our ability to trade.

Updated 24 July

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