Standards and post-Brexit trade deals
As trade negotiations between the UK and EU enter a critical phase, a lot of the focus is on the need to avoid a no deal exit from the Single Market and Customs Union at the end of this year. This is right, as No Deal on top of the COVID-19 crisis would be disastrous for many UK businesses and millions of livelihoods.
But #NoToNoDeal is not enough. The type of deals that the UK reaches with the EU and other countries matters just as much. A new report Manufacturing and Brexit from Britain in a Changing Europe, highlights how moving away from EU standards will damage the frictionless trade that has been key to the growth of many UK exporters and importers over recent decades.
We need to campaign to stay close to EU standards, to protect our economy and defend the consumer standards, workers rights and environmental protections that we gained as members of the EU.
We also need an issue that will resonate with the people of the UK and build a groundswell of opinion in support of retaining high EU standards.
Food standards is that issue.
A growing coalition against lower food standards
Since the Government announced that food standards would be on the table in their trade negotiations with the US there has been an out pouring of opposition from across the political and social spectrum. More than a million people have signed an NFU petition calling on the UK Government “to put into law rules that prevent food being imported to the UK which is produced in ways that would be illegal here”. In May 22 Conservative MPs rebelled and supported an amendment to the Agriculture Bill that sought to guarantee post-Brexit food imports match the UK’s high food and environmental standards.
It’s not surprising that many Conservative MPs are worried. Not only do many represent rural seats where the farming vote is key, but YouGov polling published this month shows that the people of the UK overwhelmingly reject accepting lower quality food imports in return for a trade deal with the United States. Civil society organisations including Which?, Greenpeace, and Compassion in World Farming are all opposing moves to lower food standards in trade deals. It’s an impressive coalition.
Keeping high food standards means keeping close to the EU
If we can win the battle to keep high food standards then that will block the dodgy US trade deal, and help establish the principle that the UK should stay close to EU standards, not just on farming, but across a wide range of goods. This will help both to minimise the damage of Brexit and to keep the UK in a close and constructive relationship with the EU.
This is a battle we can win, it’s a battle we need to win in the next few months, so please help however you can!
Save British Farming – Tractor protest in London on Wed 8th July.
Do you know any farmers? Do you know any farmers who would be able to take their tractor, truck or car on a demonstration in Westminster on Wednesday 8th July?
New campaign group Save British Farming are organising a socially-distanced demo that gathers at Milbank Tower, London, SW1P 4QP at 1pm on July 8th and then follows a route to Parliament Square. There’s more information on their Eventbrite page. The aim of the protest is to “protect and promote our high-standards of food safety and sustainability – not allow sub-standard imports that will threaten the nation’s health and survival of family farms countrywide.”
This protest has the potential to grab attention and strengthen calls for the UK to keep the high food and farming standards it developed as a member of the EU. So, if you know any farmers who would be interested in attending, or know other members of the farming community who might be, please tell them about it.