The EU Common Agricultural Policy has come in for a lot of criticism over the years, and one effect of Brexit is to give the UK government the opportunity to reform the UK system after it leaves the EU. Michael Gove is expected to introduce a new Agriculture Bill before recess (so before July 24th).

One point repeatedly made about Brexit is that the extent to which the UK diverges from current EU regulations may affect the options the UK has in terms of trade with the EU. However, as far as I know there are no aspects of the CAP that would need to be retained by the UK in order to keep inside a single goods market (ignoring for the moment that partial acceptance of the "four freedoms" is almost certainly not an option).

Are there any aspects of the current EU CAP that the UK would need to retain to remain inside a single goods market?

1 Answer 1


Any agricultural policy that gives UK farmers an advantage would be unacceptable for free trade. Free trade agreements rely on both sites playing fair, which is for example why state aid is mostly banned under EU rules.

Of course, UK farmers may feel the same way if the UK government gives them less than they were getting under the EU. I remember a farmer on BBC Question Time before the referendum complaining about unspecified regulations and that French farmers were allegedly ignoring the rules, so it seems that at least some of them were expecting more favourable terms post-Brexit (perhaps without realizing that would cut off their biggest market).

There is also the issue of the customs union. If the UK diverges on things like pesticide regulations or animal welfare then British farm goods may need to be inspected at the border, making a customs union and free trade impossible.

  • Aha, definitely +1 for the pesticides etc. But could you clarify what would count as state aid? As I understand it CAP/BPS is regularly criticised by non-EU farming bodies for being an unfair subsidy, the EU counterargument being that it compensates for potential income lost as a result of the activities required by CAP. What changes to the current CAP system would mean it started to count as state aid?
    – arboviral
    Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 7:12
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    The EU subsidies for farms are designed to ensure that the EU is always self-sufficient for food, and not reliant on other countries to feed its population. There are also environmental considerations. Such things, especially at EU level, are allowed. If the UK wanted to exceed what the EU does, perhaps because British farming is struggling in a post-Brexit world, the EU would have to consider if tariffs were needed to keep competition with EU farmers fair.
    – user
    Commented Jul 2, 2018 at 8:30

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