Exiting the European Union: The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and the Department for International Trade Contents


The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) is one of the departments most affected by Brexit. With almost all of its areas of responsibility framed by EU legislation, it is a key player within government in negotiations on the withdrawal agreement and the future relationship with the EU, in future trade agreements, border planning and in agreeing future arrangements with the devolved administrations. It is responsible for 43 of the 300 plus Brexit-related workstreams across government. Almost half of these have an IT component, and some require establishing entirely new bodies to take over EU regulatory functions. On top of this, it has to manage a sizeable legislative programme, including two major pieces of new primary legislation on agriculture and fisheries, continue its business as usual, and achieve efficiency savings of £138 million in 2018–19.

The Department for International Trade (DIT) was formed in July 2016 in direct response to the EU referendum result. It has overall responsibility for promoting British trade across the world, including preparing for and then negotiating Free Trade Agreements and market access deals with non-EU countries. DIT is responsible for eight of the Brexit-related workstreams across government. Its tasks include joining the World Trade Organisation and the Government Procurement Framework, planning for different scenarios and introducing new legislation. DIT will therefore need to work with the devolved administrations to ensure coherent public procurement law and policy. In November 2017, DIT submitted its first piece of primary legislation to Parliament, the Trade Bill, which will establish the framework for the UK to operate its own trade policy.

We took evidence on the 7 March 2018. On 19 March 2018 the Department for Exiting the European Union published the Draft Withdrawal Agreement which includes a transition period running to 31 December 2020, and stated that the UK and the EU negotiating teams aim to finalise the entire Withdrawal Agreement by October 2018.

Published: 4 May 2018