Brexit, farming and land – what next?

Back in the summer, our Director-General Helen Ghosh set out our principles for how we’d like to see government reform agricultural subsidies and support after Brexit. Today, we’re publishing our paper on the key questions to see those principles turn into practice.


What happens to farming and nature after the UK leaves the EU remains a major issue to resolve. Nick Clegg today set out the challenges for farming and the food industry if the UK leaves the single market. Defra Secretary of State Andrea Leadsom has also today pledged to get “the best possible deal for our UK farmers and exporters”.

Meanwhile the NFU is warning that farmers need full access to the Single Market post-Brexit, while the RSPB has welcomed the NFU’s emphasis on farming’s environmental role in their approach to Brexit.

The National Trust approach is driven by our core purpose (from the 1907 Act setting us up), to promote the permanent preservation of the “natural aspect, features and animal and plant life” of places of natural beauty and historic interest.

But we can’t look after nature and wildlife on our own places if nature is in decline all around us. So improving the system of public funding for land management to allow more to be done for the environment means we can better fulfil our purpose, help ensure a long-term future for our farm tenants, and achieve our ambition to play our part in restoring a healthier, beautiful and productive natural environment.

Pentire Farm at Pentire Headland, Cornwall. ©National Trust Images/John Miller

Pentire Farm at Pentire Headland, Cornwall. ©National Trust Images/John Miller

The paper we’re publishing today (see below) fleshes out the principles Helen set out in the summer. We’ve also set out what we think are the key questions to address to make these inform the reality of public policy and funding.

  1. How do we establish an enhanced but more straightforward minimum baseline for farmers to follow?
  2. What would a transition programme look like, recognising where we need to get to and what mechanisms would best achieve this?
  3. What is the best way to support upland and other marginal farmers that would be most under pressure from the withdrawal of direct subsidy payments?
  4. How do we design a new system built around payments for outcomes, which balances how public and private funding works hand-in-hand?
  5. How do we address other market failures and weaknesses, as part of a ‘whole-system’ approach? (eg dealing with fluctuating prices or ensuring farmers are paid a fair price)
  6. How could we best administer and deliver a system which is tailored to farmers’ needs, environmental outcomes sought and the different socio-economic conditions existing across all four countries of the UK? (ie how does it need to reflect arrangements and circumstances in the four nations of the UK, and what’s the best governance to ensure it works locally)

We’re keen to know what others think of our thinking. We’ve been meeting with a range of farming and conservation groups to discuss their and our thinking on this. Please do let us know if you have any comments on our questions – e-mail us at or leave us a comment below.

We’ll be publishing more on our thinking on these questions soon.

Read our paper here.

Richard Hebditch, External Affairs Director

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