Brexit: The Impact on UK Communities and Their Health


Sustainability can change depending on the location, in this context it is sustainability of countryside and rural communities in Britain. Sustainability is the quality of causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time. Moreover, it is one of the factors of healthy community. This can be related to the countryside and rural communities with sustainable agriculture, using local resources, and community engagement. Sustainability can be split in three areas, environmental, economic and social. In this “Healthy community” essay we will have a discussion about sustainability as the part of healthy community environment. 

Environmental Area

The current time of ‘anxiety and uncertainty’ is due to the Brexit negotiations which had been happening for the last three years. Brexit poses challenges to countryside and rural communities due to the uncertainty of agriculture and environmental policies. These policies will have to be renegotiated and could mean some stay, some go, and some be altered. Environmental and agricultural policies that we have through the EU are not currently at the forefront of Brexit negotiations. As these policies are not the number one priority for our current government, issues will be raised, for example the current level of support received in agriculture may be difficult to maintain with new policies.

The EU Environmental agenda has many different areas such as waste, chemicals, climate change, marine protection, biodiversity and urban environmen. 80% of UK environmental law is derived from the EU, it is either a direct replication of EU law or was constructed from EU guidance. As a result of this Brexit will cause a massive change in UK environmental law and policies, there are over 200 UK environment-based laws and policies that may be changed through this process. The EU law helps cover a wide variety of areas of environmental law such as climate change abatement, energy efficiency and renewable energy development; water quality; waste; environmental impact assessment; nature and biodiversity protection; industrial emissions; biocides, nanotechnology and other emerging technologies; access to environmental information, participation in decision-making and access to justice.

All of this can cause many issues for the UK’s rural communities as a lot of the countryside relies on these policies to maintain a standard level of protection for their businesses and countryside. According to Whitfield and Marshall the current Conservative government says, “Greater national control over agricultural policy with the potential for this to be more appropriately targeted at local, landscape and rural economy-specific functions”. This can be seen as a positive outlook of the policy changes that Brexit will bring, the countryside and rural communities may benefit from this type of outlook. For this to work out in this positive light there will be a significant challenge to keep these policy changes from causing major issues for diverse agriculture in the UK.


Trade in the UK after Brexit will change dramatically, and this can greatly affect countryside and rural communities. The UK will no longer be a part of the EU’s bilateral trade agreements. The UK were given 2 years to negotiate new trade deals with the EU but are currently in their 3rd year of negotiations. The EU is a large proportion of the UK’s exports and the UK takes up a small part of the EU’s exports, which means that the UK will be losing out on a lot more compared to what the EU will be losing. Leaving the EU will mean that UK agriculture will not be covered by import taxes causing all exports to the EU to be subject to tariffs. These tariffs will directly affect countryside and rural communities and how land is managed in these communities.

An example where the UK will be left at a disadvantage is with the current animal welfare and food hygiene standards. These prevent a company from lowering standards to keep costs low. A lack of common standards causes it to be hard for UK companies to compete with other companies with lower standards, this can leave the UK at an economic disadvantage. UK farmers received £3,334 billion of uncoupled direct and agri-environment subsidy payments in 2013, these payments make up a large proportion of farmers’ total income in the UK. In 2014/2015 half of England’s farmers did not cover production costs with their market revenue, even after support payments were included in the farms’ revenue, roughly 20% of farms did not achieve a positive Farm Business Income. The UK government will have to pay subsides payments for farms after Brexit.

Even though the UK has to pay into the EU the benefits we get from being a part of the EU are worth more. The money that the Conservative government has said we will save from leaving the EU, will not cover everything they need to pay for (agricultural subsidies, etc) as well as what they have promised it. As the final Brexit deal has not been completed yet and with the upcoming election it makes it even harder to understand where the government is going to end up going with the Brexit deal, and if there will even be a deal at all. This causes uncertainty for a lot of countryside and rural communities and businesses.


The social side of sustainable countryside and rural communities is strongly reliant on the economic side of sustainable communities. It is extremely difficult to have communities do well socially when the economy of the area, in which the community is based, is struggling. The impact of trade on agricultural products in the UK will greatly affect countryside and rural communities, this will cause uncertainty for local businesses due to the changes in the agricultural policy. Communities will have to adapt to these changes in policy and with a lack of funding behind them communities will struggle to create ways for social sustainability, especially when it comes to countryside and rural communities. Countryside and rural communities find it particularly hard to excel socially due to the fact they can be segregated and isolated from other nearby communities. This can make it difficult for people, especially the elderly, to travel to places where social activities are happening, and with Brexit funding towards public transport possibly being reduced and fairs for transport such as trains and busses possibly increasing it makes it harder for rural communities to come together.

Social sustainability is about creating a healthy community, especially a countryside and rural community. Sustainable development goals, which is a United Nations based set of goals set for all countries within the UN. Sustainable development goals can help with reducing the impacts of Brexit upon countryside and rural communities, the goals involved can be related to the problems that have risen through Brexit negotiations that affect rural communities. The Well-Being of Future Generations Act 2015 is a Welsh based set of goals for Welsh businesses to try and achieve. This is less generalised as it is based in Wales for Wales and it focus on their communities. A lot of communities in Wales can be considered at countryside and rural communities therefore these goals are better suited for helping these communities in their time of ‘uncertainty and anxiety’. One goal of the Future Generations Act is to have Cohesive Communities. This focuses on adapting to change, for example changes in policy, and the well-being of people in these communities.


Brexit poses challenges to health of countryside and rural communities due to the unpredictability of agriculture and environmental policies. 80% of the UK’s environmental law is attained from the EU meaning that out of over 200 environmental laws in the UK that roughly 160 policies will be changed or lost. The UK’s current Conservative government is using a positive outlook on these changes, saying that the UK can apply more specific policies tailored to our environments and needs as a country.

Trade after Brexit will be changed drastically and will affect countryside and rural communities harshly. The UK will no longer be a part of the EU’s bilateral trade agreements and even though the UK were originally given 2 years to negotiate a deal the UK are currently on their 3rd year. As the UK will no longer be a part of the EU’s bilateral trade agreements this means that the UK will not be covered by import taxes and will be subject to tariffs on imports. The price of imports will be increasing while the cost received for exports may decrease. The UK will struggle to fund environmental and agricultural subsidies due to the lack of funding from the EU.

Social sustainability strongly relies on economic sustainability; therefore, it can be hard for communities to excel when their economy is struggling. This causes ‘uncertainty and anxiety’ for local businesses due to the changes in policy. Communities will have to adapt to these policy changes but with a lack of funding from the EU, communities will have to work actively to try and maintain or improve the social sustainability. Countryside and rural communities have to work even harder to maintain social sustainability due to being more isolated than urban areas. As a result of this it can mean that public transport is a needed to help people get to social activities but the prices for public transport are increasing due to Brexit. Because of the rising prices it causes problems for people who struggle money-wise, and more funding will be needed to help with these rising prices. Social sustainability is about creating a healthy community, this can be helped along with the use of Sustainable Development Goals and the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015.

All of these areas affect each other in different ways. The economic side of sustainability is a big factor in environmental and social side of sustainability as funding is needed for projects and policies to be put in place. The funding is needed to start up these programmes and then keep them running. An example of how economics plays into funding social projects is hosting days out for the elderly. It also plays into funding environmental projects, for example volunteering opportunities for young people, land management and other management projects for landscapes and ecosystems in these rural communities. The social side of sustainability can be related to the environmental side by having these natural spaces for people to enjoy the countryside they live in. They can also have activities run in these areas such as group walks and bird watching tours.

This time of ‘uncertainty and anxiety’ will greatly affect countryside and rural communities as the government’s main priority is not countryside and rural communities, it is trying to keep the majority of people happy. The majority of people live in urban areas with only 20.7% of England’s population living in a predominately rural area. Brexit will change a lot of environmental and agricultural law that affects rural communities’ livelihoods and how their businesses, local and widespread, will be managed. The options for these communities in this time are to prepare for the worst possible outcome and make changes now before Brexit deals have been made and finalised. In conclusion countryside and rural areas will struggle with the effects of Brexit and the options they have are to plan ahead for the worst outcome. These communities also need to make their opinions of Brexit heard so governments know what their needs are from Brexit. 

10 October 2022
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