What’s the story…Brexit glory?

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The first ENAJ low-budget press trip to the United Kingdom will take place next month. Adrian Bell writes about its context and content. 

Two stories were persistent in their domination of European news headlines during 2016, pushing even the election of Donald Trump into third place.

For the first six months of the year, all eyes turned to how Britons would vote in their forthcoming referendum on continued membership of the European Union. Then the events of June 23 unfolded, with a clear four per cent lead for the ‘Leave’ campaign. David Cameron resigned, and the story that wouldn’t die for the next six months (and probably the next two years) was born: Brexit.

Nearly two-thirds of British farmers backed Brexit, according to a Farmers Weekly poll conducted during the campaign, compared to the 52 per cent recorded in the referendum result. Yet during the campaign there was precious little indication of how UK farming life would look in a post-Brexit world. Farmers cited EU regulations and policies as the overwhelming issues, as well as sovereignty and concerns about border control.

George Eustice, the UK’s agriculture minister, declared during the referendum campaign that he was in favour of leaving the European Union. From a farming family himself, he believes UK farmers will be better off outside the Common Agricultural Policy.

Perhaps they were also swayed by agriculture minister George Eustice who, despite being a member of David Cameron’s government, joined the Leave campaign and actively campaigned for Brexit. His gamble paid off. He remains agriculture minister in Prime Minister Theresa May’s new administration and he’ll soon find himself at the centre of British agriculture’s post-Brexit restructuring.

  • He’s also expected to be one of the keynote speakers during the ENAJ’s forthcoming low-budget trip to the UK, taking place between February 19-21. The trip will focus on the Brexit story, coupled with a profile of the recently launched Great British Food Unit and how an International Action plan for Food and Drink hopes to bring a £2.9bn boost to the UK economy over the next three years.
  • Exports of British food and drink will be a key part of Britain’s post-Brexit trade strategy, but what challenges will producers face in a post-Brexit, free trade situation? What will happen to traditional and speciality British foods, such as Stilton Cheese and Melton Mowbray pork pies, that currently enjoy protection under EU schemes such as PDO and PGI? We’ll visit leading producers, from farm to factory, to understand why the products are worthy of protection, see how they’re made, and what outlook the producers anticipate.
  • English wine also holds a PDO, yet for many years it’s been tolerated as an oenological aberration. No longer: annual production has risen from 3m bottles in 2011 to 5m in 2015, with projections of 10m by 2020. It’s also starting to attract the attention of serious winemakers: just last year in a blind tasting by Noble Rot magazine, two bottles of English sparkling wine from the south coast counties of Kent and West Sussex were placed above the more familiar French labels of Pol Roger and Taittinger. Thus we’ll visit an English vineyard, and hear from industry representatives as to what the future holds for English wines, and why UK wine exports are only set to rise.
  • Already able to boast a proven export success story is the Weetabix company. Founded in 1932, the company produces
    breakfast cereal biscuits and is something of a British institution, with the original Weetabix product consistently holding the number one or number two spot in the breakfast cereal market. The company’s mill and factory is located north of London, employs 1200 people, sources all its wheat from UK farms, and exports to more than 80 countries. Weetabix sources from farmers within a 50-mile radius of the factory; they must meet strict quality standards, attend technical meetings and practise farm assurance principles, but are rewarded with long-term contracts. One member of the growers’ ‘club’ has supplied Weetabix for more than three decades.
  • During the referendum campaign, the National Farmers Union said British farmers ‘would be best served by staying in the EU’. Farmers, and the country, chose otherwise, and the NFU has now released its vision for a ‘bold and ambitious vision for British food and farming’. The full policy paper won’t be released until later this year, but we hope to welcome Meurig Raymond, the president of the NFU, on our first night in London. While he’s unlikely to let anything slip, his insight will be interesting and valuable.
  • The City of London Food Lecture takes place in the historic Guildhall. The current building dates from 1411.

    Despite all the focus on ‘local’, or even ‘home grown’ food, does it really matter – in a world of global trade – where our food comes from? Find out by attending the illustrious City Food Lecture in London’s historic Guildhall. Organised by the seven Livery Companies – historic guilds that were established in medieval times to regulate trade in the City of London – whose roots are in the food industry, the annual lecture will be given this year by Chris Elliott, professor of food safety and founder of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast. For those delegates who might wish to extend their stay for another night, we’ve secured a limited number of tickets to this invitation-only event on the evening of Tuesday February 21.

 

ENAJ Low-Budget trip to the United Kingdom
Sunday February 19th – Tuesday February 21st, 2017
The trip will start and end in London; two nights of accommodation will be included in the fee (estimated €200).
Delegates must arrange their own airport transfers.
Attendance at the City Food Lecture on February 21st is optional.

 

Cost and full details will be announced shortly, but expressions of interest as soon as possible, please, to Adrian Bell: adrian.bell@agromavens.com