The government has spent far too little time explaining and celebrating the immense opportunities made available by Brexit. As we re-establish ourself as a confident, free-trading, island nation, innovation must be at the heart of our agenda. In a series of articles, we’ll be exploring some of the areas where freeing ourselves from the European Union’s overburdensome regulation and pernickety progress-frustrating bureaucracy will be most beneficial.
Let’s start with the basics: food production.
We are in the midst of an agricultural revolution. Genetic modification, disease resistant livestock and crops, “farmerless” tractors driven by robots – these are not the stuff of Science Fiction but real technologies, already being used to great effect outside the EU. GM crops are perfectly safe to eat, easier to cultivate, and produce higher yields whilst requiring fewer chemicals. They are good for farmers, releasing them from laborious and expensive crop spraying regimens, and good for consumers – driving down the price, and driving up the quality and provision, of fresh fruit and vegetables.
They’re also ideal for export – and import. Nearly 200 million hectares of GM crops are grown across the world; the market is obvious and ever expanding. Meanwhile, there are still vast swathes of the globe blighted by food shortages. New agricultural technology and techniques are not just financially beneficial to producers and consumers, they are a moral good: relieving hunger and increasing the availability of healthy food.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that the EU is behind the curve, penalising innovators and generating barriers to development, production and trade. On a WTO Deal, the UK could rid itself of this reactionary meddling. Instead of being reluctant late adopters of new systems, we could lead the way in developing them.
And we should not be frightened of making that moral case. The EU would appear to prefer to restrict the amount of food we grow and sell: how is that justifiable from an organisation which claims to believe in free markets, and purports to care about food prices and hungry people? One of the most egregious aspect of the Government’s baseless and unnecessary Project Fear narrative has been the made up stories of food shortages. There will be no food shortages in the UK after Brexit. Instead, we will be able to remove tariffs to increase both quality and choice. But a WTO Deal will allow us to go further and adopt measures which will help relieve food shortages in other countries as well.
“Brand Britain” is intrinsically strong. British goods and brands already carry an international cachet. According to Barclays Brand Britain research, demand for British originated goods increased by 36% in the past five years. Let’s add to that cachet a reputation for new approaches as well as traditional products.
Brexit is about freedom and sovereignty. But, crucially, it’s about improving lives. Once we’re free and Sovereign, we should endeavour to lead the world in the development and production of that most crucial life essential: food.