The UK Government’s pledge to deliver a ‘Green Brexit’ now “hangs in the balance”, the Soil Association has warned. 

The warning comes after the Government this month voted against an amendment to the UK’s Agriculture Bill intended to support agroecology and organic farming, and prohibit imports of low welfare and environmentally damaging produce.

Since the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, the UK Government has made much publicly about the opportunity to place protection of ‘natural capital’ at the heart of future food and farming policy. But fears have grown within the UK organic community, and among environment groups, that the mood in Government has been changing and that it is rowing back fast on previously announced Green commitments. 

In a statement, the Soil Association said: “MPs voted against an amendment that would prohibit low quality imports, and they were encouraged to do so by the government. The rejection of this amendment could undermine any hope of a ‘Green Brexit’ or a healthier and more sustainable farming sector.

“A truly ‘Green Brexit’ will be one with agroecology and organic at its heart, where trade policy ensures high environmental and animal welfare standards, and where food and farming policy enhance public health. This future is by no means guaranteed. In the weeks ahead, we’ll be pushing to make it a reality.”

Concerns over the current direction of the Bill have also been expressed by opposition MPs. Speaking to the House of Commons, Kerry McCarthy MP (Labour), said: “Agroecology is a cause whose time has come. This pandemic has brought home to many people how dysfunctional our relationship with the natural world has become, with overconsumption, unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, a food system that is broken, and birds and wildlife disappearing from our countryside and gardens.” 

“If the UK Government is to deliver on its promise of a ‘Green Brexit’, then the UK must go beyond best practice in Europe”

Caroline Lucas MP (Green Party) echoed these sentiments, highlighting that if the UK Government is to deliver on its promise of a ‘Green Brexit’, then the UK must go beyond best practice in Europe. Contrasting UK Government thinking on food and farming policy with that of the EU (which this week announced a target to make all farmland in the Union organic by 2030), she said: “(The Government) claimed that leaving the EU meant a greener future for British farming, where the UK would apparently do so much better for wildlife and the landscape. If that is to be reality and not just rhetoric, we need an Agriculture Bill that matches or goes further than the EU proposals on pesticides, agroecology and organic farming.”