The potential impacts of Brexit for farmers and farmland wildlife in the UK

Client: RSPB

Brexit is expected to affect farming more than most sectors of the economy. Yet over 70% of the UK is farmed and agriculture plays a critical role shaping the landscape and our environment.

In a major new report for the RSPB, Cumulus Consultants assessed and mapped the potential impacts of Brexit on farms and farmland wildlife across the UK.

The Process:

The study involved a literature review, survey of expert opinion, internal workshop, analysis of Farm Business Survey data, scenario development, quantitative and qualitative assessment of impacts by farm type and generation of implications for policy.

The report focuses on two potential drivers of change – a decrease in financial support for farmers, and a ‘no trade deal’ scenario – acting as a ‘stress test’ to help identify key risks and opportunities for the environment.

Findings and Implications:

Key findings:

  • Brexit is creating considerable uncertainty in the farming sector, now and in the future
  • Many UK farms may be vulnerable to economic shifts resulting from Brexit and some farming systems are inherently more vulnerable than others, with fewer opportunities to adapt and build resilience. This is particularly true of economically marginal livestock farming systems in upland and other areas facing natural constraints.
  • Economic changes arising from Brexit could drive shifts in farm structure, land management and land use across all sectors. The scale and direction of these changes is likely to vary between and within sectors, and could have mixed consequences for the environment.
  • Public policy has a vital role in shaping the future of UK agriculture as we leave the EU, and to support farmers and land managers to make this transition in a way that maximises the environmental benefits and minimises the environmental risks.

Key implications for policy:

  • A good transition is essential
  • Future policy should be based on ‘public money for public goods’
  • Support should be maintained where it’s needed, such as for High Nature Value farms which are important for wildlife but economically marginal.
  • Changes in trading arrangements with the EU and non-EU countries will have additional impacts and could adversely affect grazing livestock farms in particular
  • Positive changes currently being made by businesses to enhance sustainability and resilience should be encouraged and supported.
  • Regulatory standards which have a vital role in safeguarding the farmed environment should be maintained
  • There is a strong case for a common framework for UK agricultural policies to create an even playing field and maintain high environmental standards.

Ket Benefits:

  • Ground-breaking assessment of the potential impacts of Brexit at farm-level
  • Integrates farm business and farmed environment impacts
  • Assesses potential impacts across all four UK countries
  • Informs future policy development and trading arrangements


The project report can be accessed here.

Thanks again for all your work on the report – it’s a great piece of work and will be invaluable in our conversations with stakeholders in the months to come.

Claire Feniuk, RSPB

It is an excellent report and makes very interesting reading

Tim Stephens, Wessex Water