Charles Kenyon: Brexit will put pressure on our countryside

There is no way that the Common Agricultural Policy's grants will continue once we leave the European Union, says our columnist

Charles Kenyon
Charles Kenyon

When I recently wrote about the great work of the wildlife charities I had no thoughts of Brexit. Neither had most of our friends, contrary to the opinion that Brexit is all the fault of us country folk.

As I was walking the dog on the Friday morning after the result, I consoled myself with the thought that at least the countryside will remain constant. But, of course, it won’t.

There is no way that the policies, grants and payments that come from the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy will continue in an economy struggling to survive. The CAP helped to turn back the increasing barrenness of the countryside; providing habitats, cleaning watercourses, regulating nitrogen and stocking levels, protecting species and where they live. It will be so easy to plough in those six and 10 metre field headlands left fallow for wildlife corridors, fell the cover crops or dig the beetle banks if there is no other way to make enough money to live. Farmers are good people but it is hard, very hard, to make a living on the smaller farms. If we are to hope to at least maintain the environmental success gained over the past 40 years – it is a slow business – the environmental charity sector will have to punch well above its weight.

The sector is not big: only 1 per cent of charities on the Charity Commission’s register are primarily focused on the environment. Collectively, it accounts for 2.5 per cent of the total third sector income - nothing like the scale of the CAP subsidy. Except for the artificially high price of land, the European Union has generally done the British countryside proud. Environmental charities will have to pull together if we want to keep it so. 

Charles Kenyon lives near Market Rasen, 

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