Motion as passed by conference
Submitted by: 10 members
Mover: Sarah Olney MP (Spokesperson for Business and Trade).
Summation: Tim Farron MP (Spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).
Conference notes with concern:
- The empty shelves in supermarkets and shortages reported in a range of other sectors, which are predominantly the result of Brexit and government incompetence.
- That councils have warned of the impact on services such as refuse collections.
- The likely increase in food prices resulting from the increase in wages and other costs required to attract new workers, and from the additional disruption when new checks on the supply chain of EU imports are introduced.
- That these price rises will hit those worst off the hardest, at a time when the Government plans to remove the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift.
- The lack of qualified staff in many sectors of the economy, such as the road haulage business, logistics companies, and the foodprocessing industry.
- The costs, bureaucracy and inflexibility of the Conservative Government’s “skilled worker” visa system.
- The return of many EU citizens to their home countries due to Brexit and the pandemic and the difficulty of recruiting from the EU with loss of free movement.
- The calls by farmers for seasonal support in the harvest season.
- The effect that the supply chain crisis is having and is forecast to have on the post-Covid economic recovery.
- The announcement of a retirement scheme for farmers, without any guarantees that new entrants will replace them.
- The phasing out of existing farm payments without the new Environmental Land Management scheme (ELM) being ready until 2028.
- That the Conservative government’s potential trade deal with Australia, which is likely to establish a precedent for further trade agreements, fails to guarantee British standards, including on animal welfare, food safety and environmental protection.
Conference reaffirms the Liberal Democrat commitments to:
- A long-term economic strategy, including investment in jobs and training.
- Make the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift permanent.
- Free movement of people as part of a longer-term objective of UK membership of the EU, as set out in the September 2020 conference motion ‘The UK and Europe’.
- Support for farmers by broadening the remit of the Groceries Code Adjudicator and supporting them with access to markets.
- Introduce a National Food Strategy, including the use of public procurement policy, to promote the production and consumption of healthy, sustainable and affordable food and cut down on food waste.
Conference calls for the UK Government to:
- Abandon the plan to scrap the Universal Credit uplift at the end of September 2021.
- Engage with local authorities to help address the impact on local services.
- Scrap the arbitrary salary threshold for work visas, which prevents British businesses from recruiting the workers they need.
- End the arbitrary categorisation of workers into “skilled” and “unskilled” for visa purposes.
- Abandon their divisive rhetoric on immigration and scrap the Nationality and Borders Bill.
- Increase training places for shortage occupations, such as HGV drivers, and invest in HGV test facilities.
- End the phase out of current farm payments until the new ELMs scheme is ready.
- Encourage new entrants to farming by promoting the sector as a career choice, increasing funding to agricultural colleges and reviewing the Kickstart scheme with a view to expanding access to the scheme among under 25s.
- Commission a review by the Migration Advisory Committee on the impact of ending free movement on the food and farming sector.
- Ensure that any future trade deals are signed off by Parliament.
- Protect British farmers by ensuring that imported food in trade deals meets UK standards of animal welfare and environmental protection.
- Strengthen the role of the Trade and Agriculture commission, to allow it to review the impact of international trade deals before Parliament approves it.
- Within the provisions of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, agree a veterinary agreement with the EU.
- Enshrine alignment with EU SPS standards in legislation.
Applicability: Federal; except d) & e) (lines 41–46), and 6., 7. & 8. (lines 58–65), which are England only.