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This Lords Library Briefing has been prepared in advance of the Earl of Lindsay’s debate scheduled to take place in the House of Lords on Thursday 2 November 2017, on the new opportunities and challenges for agriculture, fisheries and the rural economy in the United Kingdom.

Although relatively smaller than other sectors of the economy, agriculture and fisheries represent important industries in the UK. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) states that the agri-food sector’s contribution to national Gross Value Added (GVA) was £110.4 billion in 2015 and that in Q1 2017 it employed 3.9 million people, or 13.1 percent of national employment. In 2016, agriculture (as opposed to the whole agri-food sector) in the UK accounted for 1.35 percent of the workforce. There was strong regional variation, with the figure being 1.02 percent for England, 2.31 percent for Scotland, 3.63 percent for Wales and 5.5 percent for Northern Ireland. In 2016, there were 11,757 fishermen according to figures by the Marine Management Organisation. Of these, 5,306 were based in England, 753 in Wales, 4,823 in Scotland and 875 in Northern Ireland. On the rural economy, DEFRA stated that in 2015/16 there were 537,000 businesses registered in rural areas, accounting for 24 percent of all registered business in England. These employed 3.5 million people, or 13 percent of those employed by registered businesses in England. The UK’s decision to leave the EU will have a significant effect on agriculture and fisheries, and in turn the rural economy. This is in part through the UK’s expected withdrawal from the Common Agricultural Policy and its withdrawal from the Common Fisheries Policy. However, recent House of Lords European Union Committee reports have also examined the potential risks and opportunities associated with a changing trade relationship with the EU and the effect of possible changes to freedom of movement rights. The post withdrawal trade relationship is still uncertain and subject to negotiation. The Government published the second Climate Change Risk Assessment on 18 January 2017. This examined some of the risks and opportunities associated with a changing climate in the UK. This briefing also looks at this issue and how it might relate to agriculture.

This briefing sets out statistics on agriculture, fisheries and the rural economy. It then explores recent commentary on some of the opportunities and challenges for each sector through considering the findings of committee reports. These issues are complex and uncertain and so it is not an exhaustive exploration of these issues. Further reading is provided for each sector discussed.


Documents to download

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