Agri and food standards post-Brexit

In another in our multi-faceted campaign warning of the toxic repercussions of Brexit and especially a no deal Brexit, we urge members, activists, supporters and friends to write to their elected representatives warning on trade deals and their likely/potential impact onn safety and quality standards:

Dear MP and MSPs

Agriculture and Food Standards post Brexit

I’m writing to ask if you can press the relevant Ministers to assure you that after the Brexit transition period, and beyond 2024, we can expect to see an appropriate system of support to Scottish farmers and crofters; one which balances the unique needs of Scottish agriculture with environmental, food production and animal welfare concerns, and gives confidence to future generations of both those who work in agriculture and their consumers.  

Living in Scotland I enjoy both the stunning rural environment and the excellent, locally produced food that Scottish agriculture produces.  Scotland’s land is largely shaped by farming, with 80% of it under agricultural production. So I’m alarmed to hear that the current level of support for our farmers, and the EU legislation that protects food and environmental standards and animal welfare, may not continue after the Brexit transition period.  This would be contrary to government promises.

The current UK budget for agriculture must be maintained to ensure these critical standards can be upheld. It helps to:

provide food to a standard that consumers have come to expect;

implement critical changes to support the climate change agenda8

support fragile communities, especially in north and west rural areas of Scotland.

Our food production is currently regulated by EU legislation, which the UK helped to develop, and which takes account of the precautionary principle. This ensures that, where there is doubt about the possible harmful effects of a specific product, that product can be banned unless it is proven to be safe.  This approach not only protects the consumer but prioritises animal health and welfare.

However, the US is strongly opposed to this approach. It would expect any of its trade partners to adopt so-called “science-based regulation”; an approach that favours the big corporations over the consumer by putting the burden of proof on the legislator to prove beyond doubt that a given product is causing harm. For many years, this enabled the tobacco industry to continue to deny a link between smoking and cancer.    

If this approach is adopted in any trade agreement with the US, it would reduce Parliament’s ability to ban products on the grounds of either consumer or animal welfare, or environmental concerns.  Equally, if the approach proposed in the government’s White Paper on the future UK internal market, is adopted Scotland will not be able to prevent products from other parts of the UK, made to standards which are lower than those maintained, or set, by the Scottish Parliament, being made available to consumers here. I do not believe this is what your constituents would want for our food production or future food imports. Can you also, therefore, assure me that you will take action to ensure that the UK Government will not:

  • permit imports of food produced to lower standards than those currently in force in the UK
  • create an internal UK market which will prevent the Scottish government from setting what it sees as appropriate food production standards?