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Saturday, March 02, 2019

Food safety - the harsh reality of those post-Brexit trade deals

When 52% of the country voted to leave the EU they did so with pledges of economic nirvana and public spending boosts ringing in their ears. Alas, two and a half years later, all of that promise has evaporated.

There will be no extra money for the health service. In fact we are having to pay £39 billion to meet our financial obligations as we close the door behind us. And as for those advantageous trade deals, they are as illusory as Scotch mist. Our Brexiteer Trade Secretary has clocked up thousands of air miles in that time with precious little to show for his efforts.

But fear not, it appears that Donald Trump is waiting on his white charger to ride to our rescue, providing it is on his terms and that we don't mind too much if he screws us over a bit as part of the deal.

The broken American trade deal dream is summed up in today's Guardian, who report that the United States is looking to remove “unwarranted barriers” related to “sanitary and phytosanitary” standards in the farm industry, something that would put it at loggerheads with the UK environment secretary, Michael Gove, who has repeatedly said British food standards will remain the same if not be better than they currently are.

The US has long considered EU rules on food a barrier to trade and has said fears that its food is unsafe to eat because of differences in production rules – including use of pesticides, chlorine and hormones – were unjustified:

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said it was not surprised that the US would be pushing for a trade deal that accepted its production standards and practices.

The NFU president, Minette Batters, said: “It is imperative that any future trade deals, including a possible deal with the USA, do not allow the imports of food produced to lower standards than those required of British farmers.

“British people value and demand the high standards of animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety that our own farmers adhere to. These world-leading standards must not be sacrificed in the pursuit of reaching rushed trade deals.”

In response, Eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg has told Sky News that the publication of the outline objectives was a “positive first step” to a deal with the US which would be “good for UK consumers as it would open markets to greater competition”.

The problem of course is the definition of 'greater competition'. If it means lower food standards then they can keep it.
Britain is slowly discovering (or should be, by now) that when a stronger party negotiates with a weaker party, the stronger party gets to dictate the terms. And for all of the UK's significant trading partners, the UK is very much the weaker partner.

All those people complaining about EU "bullying" over the Withdrawal Agreement ain't seen noth9ing yet.
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