In a historic vote on 23 June, the UK decided to leave the European Union with 51.9% in favour of the decision.
The British pound fell to its lowest value since 1985 in the immediate wake of the referendum and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron also announced he would resign at the Conservative Party conference in October, leaving the new Prime Minister to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, which gives notice that a member state wishes to leave.
The UK will then have two years maximum to renegotiate its relationship with the EU, with existing EU legislation remaining in force during this period.
The referendum has no precise legal standing and withdrawal must be voted in by a UK parliament.
There is still great uncertainty over the impact of Brexit on everything from trade, import duties, farming, prices, food legislation, investments and more.
Trade and prices
According to just-food, the UK could apply to join the European Economic Area (EEA), which includes non-EU members Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
“This economic halfway house could limit the economic impact of Brexit. The UK would recover control of its fisheries and food production spending and could protect its food markets.”
However, the EU would be able to raise duties against UK food and drink exports; non-EU EEA members have to pay into the EU budget to gain access to non-food elements of the EU single market; the UK would have no votes on the EU Council of Ministers and other EEA countries would have to accept the UK as a member.
“Another option would be following Switzerland and negotiating bilateral trade deals with the EU,” just-food said.
“But the Swiss usually have to implement EU rules as the price for such deals and they are only struck when the EU wants to grant the Swiss market access.”
Previously approved trade deals, such as the EU free trade agreement with South Korea, would cease to apply once the UK leaves the EU, unless countries agree continued market access.
Pending deals such as those with Canada and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the USA would need to be renegotiated, with the USA already stating that the UK would be at the back of the queue for a trade deal.
According to Rabobank, Brexit is likely to increase the UK’s costs of sourcing food products and farm inputs such as seeds, crop protection products, fertilisers and machinery.
It quoted the National Farmers Union (NFU) as saying that some 40% of the UK’s food is imported and most farm inputs are imported.
Farming communities within the UK may be some of the most affected populations from Brexit, according to GAI News. The NFU said that in 2015, UK farmers received almost €3.1bn in direct payments from the EU, with the dairy sector particularly benefiting from measures such as intervention buying and private storage aid for value-added products such as butter and skimmed milk powder.
The EU has no specific support measures for oilseeds and import tariffs for oilseeds have been set at zero.
Brexit advocates have said leaving the EU would open up €2bn from EU payments that the UK could use to support its farmers.
Dairy UK chief executive Dr Judith Bryans said the association did not take a side in the Brexit debate because “regardless of the result, we would continue to operate in a global dairy marketplace”.
Biofuels and renewable energy
Renewable energy targets come under the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED), and the UK will need to decide on policy going forward.
UK alternative fuel sales have been falling, according to Biofuels Digest, with liquid biofuel use in transport falling more than 17% in 2015 to 1.46bn litres and biodiesel consumption taking the biggest hit of 30% to 669M litres. Ethanol consumption, representing 54% of biofuel consumption, fell only 2% last year to 79M litres.
The NFU has urged a 7% cap on crop-based biofuels and the implementation of 10% biofuel blending, especially for ethanol, compared to just 4.75% now, the report said.
Biofuels Digest said the UK had no coherent internal policy for liquid transportation, a fact cited by British Airways as partly to blame for it shelving its project with Solena to produce 16M gallons/year of aviation biofuel from London’s municipal solid waste.
Determining their own policies and legislation has been one reason why many Britons voted to leave the EU.
This includes laws such as limitations on the growing of GM crops and the proposed ban on the use of glyphosate herbicide, which have frustrated some UK farmers.
“The British people have voted to leave the European Union and their will must be respected,” said David Cameron. "We must now prepare for a negotiation with the EU."