NEWS / Brexit

New trade bill raises fears of drop in food standards post-Brexit

Fears of a post-Brexit dive in food standards have increased after Boris Johnson chose to introduce a new trade bill which stripped out protections imposed by the House of Lords earlier this year.


In March this year the Lords added amendments to Theresa May’s trade bill, insisting that ministers couldn’t sign post-Brexit trade bills without them being debated and voted on in parliament. The issue is critical as the expectation is that the UK will move quickly to secure a trade deal with the United States as soon as we exit the European Union.

Sustain and our members have repeatedly raised concerns about future trade deals, particularly with the US, who have made their negotiating position clear. We have pointed out the difference in approach including the US asking the UK :

  • to accept chlorine chicken, hormone treated beef and ractopamine pork
  • Abandoning the precautionary approach on food, farming and chemical standards
  • Allowing GM food to be introduced with minimum regulation
  • Remove mandatory labelling for E numbers and additives
  • Remove protections on traditional foods and regional specialities

The story was reported by the Independent and featured a response from Sustain member Friends of the Earth.

Kierra Box, Brexit spokesperson at Friends of the Earth, said: “This is clearly an attempt to make it harder for the public and parliament to ensure protections are not traded away and for the government to be held to account. It appears from comments made by Liz Truss [the trade secretary], Boris Johnson and others in cabinet that they see Brexit as a deregulatory exercise.

“They see a US trade deal as the core aim of leaving the EU, despite the level of opposition in parliament and in society to Brexit leading to dirty trade deals and deregulation.

“And the US has made clear, since 2016, that its priority will be access for US agricultural goods produced to lower standards, as well as access for genetically modified goods.”

Fears have also been raised after a document from the Department for Exiting the EU, leaked to the Financial Times, showed the Government is already planning to diverge from the EU on regulations and workers’ rights after Brexit, despite its pledges on maintaining a ‘level playing field’. The paper stated that the drafting on workers’ rights and environmental protection commitments “leaves room for interpretation”.



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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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