The top four British environmental groups say Brexit is a “once in a generation opportunity” to change the direction of the huge decline in Britain’s wildlife. The Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, WWF UK and RSPB all say that the UK’s countryside is “key to our identity as a nation”. The charities urged the government to repeal the heavily criticised EU Common Agricultural Policy subsidy with a British subsidy that would pay farmers in the UK to maintain high environmental standards.
Farmers complain they haven’t been consulted
The National Farmers Union says its members understand exactly how important it is to ensure the environment remains protected, however it added that some organisations were making suggestions about agricultural policy without first speaking to stakeholders. For their part the four conservation groups issued a joint statement called a new policy for our countryside which said that Britain’s exit from the EU “will be one of the most defining events for farming and our environment in living memory”.
“[It] provides an unprecedented opportunity to revitalise our countryside in a way that balances the needs of everyone, for generations to come. Our vision is for a thriving, healthy countryside that delivers multiple benefits for society. As well as products such as food and timber, we need the natural environment to provide services like clean water and healthy soils, and the benefits to our wellbeing that contact with abundant and diverse nature brings. In turn, these services play a key role in supporting a prosperous rural economy.”
Long term future at stake
The groups argue that the long-term future of farming is at stake if the natural systems around which it is based are not replenished. Farmland covers over 75 per cent of the UK, farmers are in a unique position to help with ensuring the UK meets the challenge of restoring nature. The charities have also called for the creation of an independent commission which would be set up to develop policy as well as the drawing up of a 25-year plan.
The government needs to be brave
Steve Trotter director of The Wildlife Trusts in England says that wildlife is a critical part of what makes the countryside so special. He argues that the government needs to be brave and take a revolutionary approach to the way subsidies are used to deliver things that we require from a healthy countryside. This includes clean water, beautiful landscapes and nutritious food. He adds that this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the government to develop policy to help reverse the huge decline in wildlife and we should not miss it.