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Sustain Brexit Consultation responses

Sustain warns Trade Bill Committee of the risks of cheap food imports, February 2018

Vegetables in a wholesale market. Photo credit: Pexels

Vegetables in a wholesale market. Photo credit: Pexels

Sustain submitted evidence to the Trade Bill Committee in Parliament. In it we argued that cheap food imports are a risk to our health and to 3.9m jobs in the UK's food and farming industries.

There has been considerable debate about how the UK will be free to move to 0% tariffs for food after we exit the European Union. Those who argue for these lower tariffs claim it will reduce prices for consumers and help those on low incomes.

Sustain believes that to date this debate has failed to take account of the full range of factors that impact on food prices or the potential cost to UK food and farming, our health system or those who will end up eating cheap food imports. We are not anti-import, as long as it meets the high standards Britain expects.

You can read our full evidence paper here, but in summary,

  • We want affordable food, not ‘cheap’ food, which may be poor quality or unsafe to eat. Cheap, poor quality, imported food will come at a cost – to the farmer or food producer, to animal welfare, to the environment or jobs in UK food and farming. There may be hidden costs to our NHS and economy from food poisoning and lost days at work.
  • Research shows foodbank use is rising in the UK and that the primary reason is low or uncertain income and delays or changes to benefits payments. These problems will not be solved simply by cheap food. We need to improve household incomes, control housing costs, link wages and benefits to the cost of living and fix the welfare safety net.
  • British people should refuse to trade away food standards. Our UK farming industry has worked hard to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use and clean up meat production. We don’t want their farms and jobs put at risk by competition with cheap, poor quality and lower standard imports.
  • We want trade that doesn’t short-change farmers in the UK, or in poor countries, and which supports sustainable development and global commitments on issues like climate change. It is important to maintain good food and farming standards to help achieve these aims.

Brexit: We stand at a cross-roads. When the UK leaves the European Union, will our leaders uphold good standards for our food, farming, fishing and trade deals? And will they agree a sensible deal with the EU? We need to make sure that they do!

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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

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