UK Food Standards Compromised After Brexit

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on the Agriculture Bill going through Westminster and the House of Lords and the lowering of food import standards after Brexit.

I am lost for words as it is becoming very clear to me that the UK is heading for a new category called the “fourth world country” after the formalities of Brexit are over. Conservative MP’s in the South of Scotland region have voted against requiring new international treaties on the import of agricultural and food products to ensure products imported into the UK under those arrangements comply with World Trade Organisation safety rules and the UK’s own standards. To explain in a lay persons term, we have been screwed by Tories David Mundell (Clydesdale and Tweeddale and Berwickshire), John Lamont ( Dumfriesshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) and Alister Jack (Dumfries and Galloway) in accessing good food after Brexit.

328 MP’s including two Labour MP’s voted against the above amendment to safeguard our high standards and protect farmers livelihoods, while 277 cross party MP’s voted to keep them. Independent experts and researchers were sceptical about the Tories keeping their promises of not lowering food standards post Brexit as America clearly stated publicly that in order for a trade agreement between the two countries all sectors of the economy will have to be on the table for negotiations and according to US standards. This bill before the UK parliament was also a first of its kind to be voted on by MP’s electronically and was passed on 13th May 2020.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) and a number of animal welfare and environmental organisations wrote to all 650 MP’s pleading them to make sure the new Agriculture Bill guaranteed that all imported food coming into the UK after Brexit and trade deals currently being negotiated meet the same high standards of environmental protection and animal welfare as is expected of any local food producer. Some of the organisations that put their names to this letter were; NFU, RSPCA, Soil Association, Friends of the Earth, Woodland Trust, Greenpeace and many more. The NFU President Minette Batters highlighted the real differences between food production in the UK and other countries which includes the US;

Abattoirs use chlorine or other chemicals to wash carcases which are not allowed in the UK because we have legislation on the way we keep our livestock, limiting stocking density;  We have rules on bio security, lighting, diet and veterinary oversight; Battery cage egg production is still permitted in some countries but was banned here in 2012; Meat and bone meal in feed which was banned in the UK over 24 years ago is still allowed elsewhere; In Brazil, farmers don’t need a Vet’s prescription for animal medicines and don’t need to record treatments. These are just a few examples that will compromise the high UK standards already in place with the new Agriculture Bill.

This bill now moves to the Lords for a second reading and hopefully it is voted out and sent back to the government for a major rethink of this once in a lifetime opportunity to keep the high standards achieved over decades in place and not torn to shreds for a desperate trade deal with the US of A. What will happen if this bill passes into law? Readers may have come across this headline a few years ago; “Get ready for cheap chlorinated chicken and hormone filled beef flooding the UK in a new trade deal with the US”. Not only will the health of citizens in this country be badly impacted by cheap imports but our farmers will not be able to compete with food produced in the US as its widely known how lax the regulations are, if any.

The Tories are running around in circles and trying to get a bad trade deal with Trump at any cost. Rebel Conservatives and Labour amendments to hold the government to previous promises made to protect British and Scottish food and farming were defeated, thanks to our own elected low life’s and career politicians. What will it take to boot the Conservatives out of this area? Is it death squads via Covid-19 or slow food poisoning of the electorate? Well! That’s the choice you have and if you decide to vote these corrupt individuals again that put themselves, Queen and Power before the people than I am sorry to say what’s coming next will completely be our fault. It’s not too late to take our elected MP’s to task and hold them accountable.

Stay safe! Eat well!

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 1st May 2020.