Brexit, a neologism that we have all come to know and maybe despise. But there’s no doubt it will have an impact on all sorts of things, including gardening habits. So what might Brexit mean for gardeners?
Firstly, plants that are propagated and grown in Britain might well be championed and the UK horticulture flag is likely to be hoisted to fly proudly above any home-grown plants. Nurseries and private growers that offer a range of home-grown plants are unlikely to suffer any ill consequences of Brexit. In fact they may prosper and expand as demand for their services will probably increase.
But the current supply of most non-UK-grown plants involves many continental countries, particularly Holland. It is estimated that we import more than £400m of ornamental plants every year. Many seeds and bulbs are also produced outside the UK. It is likely that paperwork and administration time will quadruple. It is anticipated that there could be supply chain complications. Speed of imports is expected to slow down and everything will probably take longer to arrive. Perishable plants are likely to suffer delays at borders and this could result in deterioration in quality. What’s more, if the pound remains weakened, prices of all imported products will rise.
This is bad news for those managing retail outlets. They tend to watch weather forecasts before deciding what stock to order, hoping for quick sales. For example, if a hot weekend is forecast, many garden centres will order in some eye-catching plants just a couple of days beforehand. The displays are therefore new, fresh and tempting, resulting in happy customers who will probably go home with plants that have been on display for a matter of hours.
The majority of house plants are imported from Holland and other European countries. Now that we've fallen in love with indoor gardening as well as outdoor, it's easy to understand why house plants form a huge chunk of the horticultural retail sales market.
The landscaping and horticulture industry currently supports more than half a million jobs and it relies heavily on migrant, Eastern European workers. This is, perhaps, one of the biggest threats to both food growers and landscaping organisations. Lack of willing workers could result in problems during harvest and also shortage of staff for building projects.
Chelsea and other Flower Shows
The impact of Brexit on flower shows including RHS Chelsea could be significant, but it’s just about impossible to predict at this stage. Most show gardens have already secured their sponsors for next year, so it would be a while before any effects filter down. At that point, investors might well be looking to cut back if there is any sort of economic downturn. in addition, plant choices might be reduced as there could be changes to the permits and passports required on certain trees, shrubs and even perennials. Species that fall under the umbrella of The Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) are likely to involve extra cost and administration and some might become unavailable.
British wildlife is currently protected under various EU laws and guidelines and many are concerned that these will be relaxed after Brexit. There is currently a ban on certain insecticides including neonicotinoids that have been implicated in the decline of bees. There are fears that allowing potentially harmful chemicals to reappear on the shelves will result in fewer insects. This will impact on birds and other animals who depend upon them along the food chain.
It is likely that certain scientific research will be reduced, at least in the short-term The Royal Horticultural Society, for example, currently collaborates with many other EU organisations when researching various topics. They include pest prevention, plant disease and developing environmentally-friendly products including alternatives to peat-based compost. Restricted access to EU grants and funding will also have post-Brexit implications.
Whatever happens, horticulture will adapt and move forward. Gardeners will still garden, plant-lovers will continue to enjoy fulfilling their passion and nature will still nurture. These are changing times but the garden gate will be freshly oiled and ready for visitors.