Steaks raised in Brexit food standards row

| 27th January 2020
National Farmers' Union, RSPB, Greenpeace sign letter to Boris Johnson PM demanding food standards protected as the UK prepares to leave the EU.

It is vital that we have more than just verbal assurances to ensure our standards are properly safeguarded.

A coalition of farming, environmental, animal welfare and public health groups have called on the Prime Minister to take action to protect food standards after Brexit.

Some 60 groups, mobilised by the National Farmers' Union and including the RSPB, National Trust, RSPCA, Greenpeace and the Royal Society for Public Health, have signed a letter to Boris Johnson as the UK prepares to leave the EU.

The groups say they agree that Brexit "provides an opportunity to foster a sustainable, carbon neutral model of farming in the UK building on our reputation for high-quality, safe and affordable food".

Trade

They say they may have differences of opinion on how to achieve that, but are all agreed it will not happen without the right domestic policy, supported by a progressive and ambitious trade policy.

In the letter, the organisations say they are reassured by recent pledges by both the PM and the Environment Secretary on protecting standards in food production.

But they warn: "It is vital that we have more than just verbal assurances to ensure our standards are properly safeguarded."

The letter calls for the Government to enshrine its manifesto commitment not to compromise on high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards, by putting provisions to safeguard them in the new Agriculture Bill.

There should also be a trade and standards commission to enable people to engage on the UK's trade policy and how it affects standards in the country, they urge.

Vision

And the groups warned that while the liberalisation of global trade had boosted economies, provided jobs and lowered prices for consumers, it had failed to deal with negative impacts, such as climate change, wildlife loss and animal welfare concerns.

They urged: "Brexit means the UK can show leadership in pioneering a new type of global trading system; one that moves away from the narrow and dated focus on ever-cheaper goods, regardless of how they are produced, to one that rises to the challenges of climate change and promotes more sustainable models of production and consumption across the world.

"In the year that the UK hosts the Cop26 climate change summit, we are ready to work with you in pushing forward this agenda with energy and vision."

With the UK's exit from Europe just days away, they said the measures they wanted should be pursued "as a priority", and called for a meeting with the PM to discuss how to achieve the vision they set out.

This Author

Emily Beament is the PA environment correspondent. Image: Global Justice Now. 

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