“If you want to know what happens when a country leaves the European Union, you might as well ask the Inuit.” That was the BBC’s Brian Milligan being simultaneously flippant and factual last month (factual, because Greenland is the only other country ever to have left the EU – or the EEC as it was then). Milligan’s real point, of course, is that it doesn’t matter whether it’s the Governor of the Bank of England or the bloke down the pub – nobody knows what the long-term outcome of the EU Referendum will be.

Part of the ritual of major political events is that individuals and organizations are obliged to react to them. In the age of Twitter and WhatsApp this now happens in real time – and it was on social media that we saw the first reaction from people in our industry. One thing was immediately clear, the EU Referendum divided opinion in the natural and organic sector, just as it did in the country. There are passionate Leavers among our ranks (some of whose views will have been shaped by personal experience of dealing with the raft of EU health product regulations). But there are also many equally passionate Remainers – particularly inside the cooperative movement, with its strong tradition of internationalism. Emotions travel from “ecstatic” to “furious”.

The reaction from industry organizations has been more guarded and necessarily pragmatic. However the Soil Association says it is “very disappointed” by the Brexit vote, which it believes could weaken environment regulation and open the door to widescale GM crop cultivation. The HFMA says it expects little in the way of immediate changes, and is urging a period of “calm reflection” rather than “hasty decisions”. The NAHS, meanwhile, is urging the UK Government to free small business of red tape and the “burdensome” regulation of natural health products.

The most detailed examination of possible impacts on the natural health sector has come from the Alliance for Natural Health. Applying a SWOT analysis technique it identifies an opportunity to create a “world leading legislative framework”. But in the ‘threats’ column it raises concerns that the UK could be vulnerable to trade deals that would be like “TTIPs on steroids”.

So, as we wave goodbye to years of uncertainty over the prospect of an in-out referendum, we say hello to a whole new level of uncertainty after it.

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About the Author

Jim Manson

Jim Manson is Editor-In-Chief of Diversified Communication UK's natural and organic publishing portfolio. He’s written widely on environment and development issues for specialist magazines and national media, including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times, Time Out and World Bank Urban Age.

Articles by Jim Manson
Jim Manson

2 Responses to Welcome to the Brexit guessing game

  1. Avatar
    adrian July 7, 2016 at 4:09 pm #

    Was the UK Referendum the right debate?

    It is so easy to consider that we are a developed species providing intelligent thoughts to solve problems that surround us. However when we are faced with the issues of organising our society, such as the UK Referendum on EU membership, intelligent problem solving seems to dissipate.
    Both sides of the debate quickly went head long into appealing to the individual voter to selfishly ask themselves ‘what’s in it for me’ to gain support based on economic grounds. (‘Free movement of people’ ostensibly being an economic argument).

    Those of us within the ‘wholefood industry’ may have had differing views on the referendum. I suspect that for those that are involved in the fairer trading/ethical/compassionate end of the spectrum it may have seemed that those in the UK have been debating the wrong question. To my awareness the word ‘environment’ was randomly thrown in to the list of reasons on how people should choose to vote. Post Referendum the level of emotions between each side seems to have galvanised into negativity.
    I would suggest that until we as a society- that is humanity- start to prioritise goals for ourselves, we may be spending the next few hundred years as we have spent the last few hundred, in a quagmire of squabbles (often leading to us murdering each other on an unprecedented scale).
    The sooner we start ‘the’ debate about what we as humans want to achieve for our species the better. I would suspect that we would identify early on that we only have one world that needs looking after and that as humans the positive emotions of love over hate are more powerful and rewarding. I’m not aware of this type of popular debate, so it is up to us as individuals not to ask ‘what’s in it for me’ but to do all we can to hold some flame of human dignity until this happens.

    Following the most ethical path to care for our world and all life on it is one way we can do this. Through my own work at Plamil Foods I will be promoting ‘better ethics for a better world’. A small contribution, until the real debate is started.

  2. Avatar
    Charlie Booth July 7, 2016 at 3:50 pm #

    So the Inuit are really Outofit

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