With the UK voting to leave the European Union, co-operative umbrella organisations are looking at what this could mean for their member co-operatives.
Co-operatives UK has issued a statement to inform members about its future plans. The apex body for co-operatives in the UK said its primary task would be to “monitor and safeguard” the position of its members when it comes to bringing legislation and rules back to the UK.
In a letter sent out to members, Co-operatives UK secretary general, Ed Mayo, said: “There is a very large legislative agenda that will come with Brexit, so we will need to be astute in our lobbying to promote other ongoing changes that we wish to see around the regulation and promotion of co-operatives, and to champion Britain’s social economy, as otherwise these may be pushed aside.
“The future of agricultural policy and farm support will be of particular importance to the growing number of farmers working through producer co-operatives. We will redouble efforts to champion and support farmer co-operation.”
Mr Mayo added that Co-operatives UK remained “entirely committed” to the European co-operative sector. He also confirmed that Co-operatives UK had offered to host a forthcoming meeting of the board of Cooperatives Europe.
Brexit is likely to have a significant impact on agricultural co-operatives, which will no longer gain access to subsidies through the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. James Graham, chief executive of the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS), commented:
“We have now entered a new era of uncertainty for Scottish agricultural co-ops at what is already a difficult time. I have spoken this morning with members selling into Europe and to the USA, and already they have received calls from customers for price renegotiations in light of the devaluation of sterling.
“There is a high level of concern about short-term volatility and longer-term concern about access to markets and undermining confidence to invest in both farming and food and drink manufacturing. We don’t have any reason to be optimistic that the UK government will support family farming in a meaningful way, especially those in hills and uplands, so inevitably, we will maintain a close dialogue with the Scottish government about how it will support and assist our farmers and co-ops.”
The decision […] is a democratic one, but is a huge challenge for the European Union
Cooperatives Europe, the regional office of the International Co-operative Alliance also responded to the results of the EU referendum, expressing concerns over the exit of the UK.
“The decision of the UK to leave the European Union is a democratic one, but is a huge challenge for the European Union,” said Dirk Lehnhoff, president of Cooperatives Europe. “We will all be called to go back to our roots, to rediscover the values that led the founding fathers of the EU to begin the European project and from there make it stronger.
However, Mr Lehnhoff said that the Brexit would not endanger Cooperatives Europe’s successful collaboration with member organisations in the UK.
“The co-operative movement has a long-standing tradition in the United Kingdom. The UK, alongside France and other European countries, was at the heart of creating the International Co-operative Alliance and Cooperatives Europe. We express our strong solidarity with our British co-operative colleagues and commit to work together to foster the co-operative movement across the borders of Europe.
“As a first signal of solidarity we welcome the offer from Co-operatives UK and its member, Midcounties Co-operative, to host a possible board meeting of Cooperatives Europe in the United Kingdom.”