The latest Food Brexit briefing from the Food Research Collaboration at City University (published 23 July) includes the explosive claim that the government is planning to suspend food safety measures in favour of waving through perishable goods, if we fail to secure a Brexit deal with the EU.
The report states “In recent months, we have learned from a senior government adviser that plans are being prepared to ‘suspend food controls’ if there are any delays to imports of perishable foods at our borders. We learned too that other policy commentators had been told the same by senior Defra personnel. One government adviser even informed us that the plans were being devised ‘to avoid parliamentary scrutiny’.
‘One could argue that this is sensible emergency planning,’ says co-author Prof Tim Lang, ‘but it is also risky. Consumers would rightly wonder who was guaranteeing the safety and quality of the imported food they were buying. Criminals would be alerted to opportunities for food fraud. And the move would send negative signals to the EU, at a delicate time in Brexit negotiations. It could make the UK’s 3rd country status more problematic for exports.”
The report, co-written by Prof Tim Lang (City), Prof Erik Millstone (Sussex), Tony Lewis (Head of Policy, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health) and Prof Terry Marsden (Cardiff) takes stock of how food, food security and food regulation are being addressed by HM Government in the Brexit discussions.
The authors welcome the fact that the Chequers Statement of 6 July and subsequent White Paper recognise the importance of agri-food to Brexit but argue that the documents have ‘major weaknesses’. They say the Government makes a ‘fundamental mistake in proposing close alignment with the EU only for farming and manufacturing, but not for retail or food service’.
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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