With the date for the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union set for 29thMarch 2019, there is a lot of negotiating yet to be done. We are still yet to know whether the UK will have access to the free market, how much the divorce bill will cost the UK or even how the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland will work.
As for the South West, Brexit is set to impact a variety of areas. Cornwall has received a lot of funding from the European Union, an amount estimated to be in the region of £1bllion since 1999. This includes £53 million that was received to install super-fast fibre broadband that has been incredibly important for business growth in Cornwall. Despite this funding, Cornwall surprisingly still voted to leave the European Union, with 56.5% of those living in the county voting leave, a figure almost 5% higher than that of the national average.
The agriculture, forestry and fishing industries employ 5.9% of Cornwall’s population, yet this is one of the industries that could be most adversely affected if a hard Brexit occurs.
The House of Lords EU committee’s May 2017 report on Agriculture and Brexit stated that EU migrants make up a significant proportion of the workforce. With 98% of the 80,000-seasonal workforce in horticulture within the United Kingdom believed to be migrants from the EU. This could be harmfully affected depending on the Brexit process of Brexit. Currently, there is no plan in place that will protect the rights of EU citizens inside of the United Kingdom. Should they not be offered any protection for those working inside the UK, this could severely have affected farmers and their business, with EU migrants often working for a cheaper wage than that of UK citizens.
However, despite this possible issue for the agriculture sector, those within fishing may be set to benefit. In 2009, Cornwall’s port of Newlyn was ranked the United Kingdom’s third largest port with the live weight catch recorded at 8,400 tonnes, showing that fishing in the South West is still significant.
Within the 2017 Queen’s Speech, the UK Government announced itsintention to introduce a fisheries bill to: “Enable the UK to control Access to its water and set UK fishing quotas once it has left the EU.”This shows that fishing is set to be a subject of high importance during Brexit negotiations, but this may lead to sacrifices within other industry negotiations to secure it. The Leave campaign had previously promised to secure control of the UK’s 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) comparable to that of Iceland’s which caused complications for British fisherman in the 1970s, but as negotiations move forward, this would appear to be growing less realistic.
These will both be affected by some of the greater issues being discussed in the Brexit negotiations, however, another significant issue for Cornwall comes in itsiconic Cornish pasty, a factor that is likely not to be of high importance around the negotiating table.
In 2011, the Cornish pasty received Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status from the European Union, protecting it under their laws. This protected the pasty inside the UK and EU nations, meaning that it could only be named a Cornish pasty if it was produced in Cornwall with set ingredients. Since achieving this status, the Cornish Pasty industry has grown significantly. It is hard to attribute how much more it has benefitted from becoming protected, but, the European Commission estimates that items carrying the stamp increase the value of the product by 2.3%.
Should no laws be put in place during the negotiations, the Pasty will lose its status without any protection, having a significant impact not only on the industry, but Cornwall itself. The Cornish Pasty industry generates £300M worth of trade a year, which equates to approximately 20% of Cornwall’s food and drinks sector.
With Pasty makers believed to spend around 25% of their turnover within the local economy, this reaches out to others within Cornwall, especially farmers who they companies require for locally sourced ingredients.
Speaking to the Cornish Pasty Association, the trade association representing Cornish Pasty makers across Cornwall, they remained positive that the Cornish Pasty will remain protected: “The CPA is working closely with the government and other Protected Food Names over the transition period and has received positive indications that a mechanism will be put in place to ensure that the use of the Cornish pasty name continues to be protected both within the UK and the EU after Brexit”.
With over 120 million pasties produced yearly in Cornwall to be shipped across the UK and the rest of the World, there is a big risk should they not hold onto the protected status. This is because it would allow companies, both inside the UK and across Europe to create their own and still brand it with the Cornish Pasty name, effectively nullifying the use of those producing pasties inside Cornwall apart from the reputation that they may hold.
This could potentially see the Cornish Pasty industry suffer in a similar way to that of Devon’s cider industry. Split in two, the industry is currently struggling with somewhat of an identity crisis with the independent, traditional makers competing with larger commercial firms to produce what is branded Devon Cider. But, these commercial firms are believed to be simply using the name as a marketing technique with no real legitimacy to what goes into their product to make it Devon Cider. This is now beginning to push smaller independent and traditional Devon Cider makers out of the industry due to a lack of business they are receiving with potential customers opting for that of the larger firms.
However, the Cornish pasty is not the only food from the South West that may suffer from a loss of PGI statuses, with Exmoor Blue Cheese and Cornish Sardines also set to lose their status. Whilst foods such as Cornish Clotted Cream and Fal Oysters will lose their Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status too, but these do not contribute as much to Cornwall’s food and drinks sector compared to that of the Cornish pasty.
Although, it isn’t just foods in the South West that will be affected, with different products across the country also being protected by the EU Food Quality Scheme’s statuses. There is still hope, however, with countries outside of the EU still being able to acquire a protected status, such as Darjeeling tea from India.
To hold onto its status in this manner would be an ideal outcome for those who currently hold a protected status. The next best alternative would be protection within UK law. This wouldn’t apply to other countries within the EU, allowing factories in France, Germany or Spain to produce their own version and brand it a Cornish pasty. However, this would prevent other areas from inside the United Kingdom from labelling their product a Cornish Pasty if it is made outside of Cornwall and without the correct ingredients.
The Brexit negotiations are going to have significant repercussions on the entirety of the United Kingdom, or what remains of it that is. UK agriculture is heavily dependent on EU migrant labour, therefore any restrictions on migration without an exception for labour within the agricultural industry will harm horticultural businesses within the South West considerably. This could either be an outright exception for the sector, such as an allowance for seasonal migration. But, the issue then arises of the rights of workers, being no longer protected by the EU that they will not be exploited.
However, it is evident that the treasured Cornish pasty looks set to suffer the most severely, with their protected status being the main factor to defend itsheritage from large corporations who if they are legally allowed to, may begin to mass produce their product. Although not being one of the main drivers of Cornwall’s economy, the Pasty makers help to provide more than just a traditional pastry loved by locals and the country alike, it has a substantial contribution within Cornwall, with companies buying produce from local farmers and providing others with jobs, feeding back into the Cornish economy.