News updates, 7 March 2019
Sustain has been pressing policymakers to protect vulnerable people dependent for their food on the public sector and charities. Today we sent a letter to the Prime Minister and launched an e-action, calling on the Prime Minister to do just that.
Please urge Theresa May to make sure 'no deal' doesn't mean 'no meal'
And do let your supporters know. We will continue to press for a hardship fund and government actions such as curbing food price increases, guaranteeing food safety and standards and ring-fencing food supplies for those most in need.
Last week, the US published their negotiating objectives for a future US/UK trade deal and made clear we would have to accept their lower meat and welfare standards in future trade deals. The US Ambassador to the UK opined in the Daily Telegraph that stories of chlorine-washed chicken are merely a ‘smear campaign’. We tackled his arguments head on here. And you can read our full objections in an opinion piece published by inews here.
Farming Minister George Eustice resigned, using his new-found freedom to pen a damning opinion piece about US farming standards, which he described as ‘backward’ and their legislation on animal welfare as ‘woefully deficient’. Robert Goodwill, a farmer and former education minister, has been appointed to replace him. We wish him well and have requested a meeting.
Food and Farming (Agriculture Bill)
It is now clear we may be in for a long wait on the Agriculture Bill as progress through parliament has stalled. Out of parliament, the issue of whether we will have a clause in the Bill around trade and agri-food imports being produced to same standards (food, environment, animal welfare) as UK has been a hot topic. The US in particular is super keen to get into the UK market with products produced to different standards. The NFU pressed Environment Secretary Michael Gove on this at their conference, whilst proposing a new Commission to assess what standards should be upheld in trade deals, and how. We need strong, legally binding measures to prevent food imports produced to lower standards, and Sustain is concerned that a ‘Commission’ may be weak and risk cherry picking standards, so we are maintaining our campaign for strong clauses in the Trade or Agriculture Bill. (Vicki Hird)
Fish (Fisheries Bill)
The key post-Brexit fishing legislation – the Fisheries Bill - continues to be delayed and there is no official date for the next stage (when MPs will be able to table and vote on amendments). Sustain’s Ruth Westcott explains why the effects of a no deal Brexit could be particularly stark for the UK’s shellfish industry. In terms of who gets to fish where, theoretically a no deal Brexit would see the UK assume control of its 200 nautical mile territorial waters, but the EU may have other plans – the French foreign minister has said France would make ‘every effort’ to continue with the status quo until the end of 2019. Don’t forget, if you feel a bit ‘at sea’ about sustainable fishing, get up to speed with our fish mythbuster. (Ruth Westcott)
Why fishing communities could be crushed by a no-deal Brexit
The government has released a new assessment of the impact of a no deal Brexit on business. Sustain’s Ruth Westcott considers why it makes grim reading for fishing communities.
International Trade (Trade Bill)
On 6 March in the House of Lords, peers passed an amendment making it an ‘objective’ of the government during negotiations to pursue a free trade deal allowing the UK to stay ‘in a customs union’ with the EU after Brexit. It also called for parliamentary approval of future trade agreements, which is what Sustain and trade justice colleagues have been campaigning for. Our attention is now back on the Commons where we expect the Government to try and overturn this. There was extensive coverage of the US trade objectives for a US/UK trade deal, and, thanks to some false claims by the US Ambassador on Radio 4’s Today programme, lots of interest in Sustain’s analysis of food poisoning rates in the US, including in the Guardian. We transcribed his interview, which you can read here. (Orla Delargy)
Government no deal paper presents stark warning for UK food and farming industry
A Government briefing paper on the likely impact of a no deal Brexit on trade and business has warned of food price hikes, delays at the port of Dover and an alarming extra £13bn costs in customs paperwork for British businesses.
Government expected to apply tariffs to imported food to protect British farmers
The Government had been expected to make an announcement about future tariffs on imports to the UK, but a paper on the impact of a no deal Brexit (released on Tuesday 26 February) said only that it was expected ‘soon’.
Michael Gove says he'll protect British food and farmers after Brexit - but powerful US companies have other plans
On Thursday 21 February i news carried an opinion piece by Sustain chief executive Kath Dalmeny about the risks to UK food and farming standards of a future trade deal with the United States.
Other Brexit-related news
Government weakens penalties for breaking the law on food safety, fisheries, pesticides and air quality
In the process of transferring EU law into domestic legislation, the Government has used ‘Henry VIII powers’ to remove a requirement for legal penalties to be “effective, proportionate and dissuasive”, weakening protections on issues such as food safety, fisheries, pesticides and air quality.
Think tank publishes briefing on post-Brexit funding for UK nations and regions
The IPPR has released a paper about the planned UK Shared Prosperity Fund. The Fund, promised in the Conservative Party manifesto in 2017, is supposed to repatriate and combine several strands of EU structural funding after Brexit. But frustration has been growing as the consultation has been delayed and the amount unclear.
Sugar price set to rise after Brexit - which is a good thing
A briefing published by the Food Research Collaboration (FRC) argues that a price hike in sugar after Brexit can be used to strengthen the target to reduce sugar consumption in the UK.