The Future British Standards Coalition, chaired by Sustain, challenges government to protect British food standards in law.
Over the past few months the UK government has emphasised the opportunities of striking new trade deals around the world, particularly with countries such as Australia and the United States where food standards are lower. It has done this while resisting calls to commit in law not to import food below UK standards – claiming that such safeguards are unnecessary.
As a group of organisations representing a range of public interests, the Future British Standards Coalition has been convened to scrutinise the UK government’s approach to food standards. The Future British Standards Coalition includes public health, animal welfare and farming groups, as well as trade academics and Conservative and crossbench peers.The coalition's interim report is published today (12th October 2020) to coincide with the UK Agriculture Bill returning to parliament for its final stages.
Chair of the coalition Kath Dalmeny (also chief executive of Sustain), said:
"The Conservative Party promised in its 2019 election manifesto that in all trade negotiations, they would not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards. That promise is looking feeble in the face of heavy pressure from the US and Australia to weaken standards. Time is now running out. The Government must write British food standards into law, in the Agriculture Bill being finalised in parliament this week. They must also establish a strong food and agriculture standards commission that can prevent trade negotiators using British food standards carelessly as a bargaining chip."
Download the Future British Standards Coalition interim report here.
The report considers some of the opportunities and risks, and makes two recommendations for the Agriculture Bill:
- At the previous stage of the Agriculture Bill, peers had proposed an amendment to the bill that would see food imports need to meet UK standards. The coalition agrees that the foundation stone of maintaining existing standards – and the simplest way for government to honour its manifesto pledge – is through a commitment in law not to allow food imports that fail to meet current British standards. Having heard evidence that it is possible to restrict imports on the basis of legitimate concerns about production methods and still comply with WTO law, the coalition concludes that the government should seek to accept this amendment.
- Peers also supported an amendment that would see the government’s new Trade and Agriculture Commission strengthened. As it stands, this body is advisory only, does not report directly to parliament, is set to produce one report by the end of 2020, and has a membership that excludes many issues of public interest and high public concern. The coalition supports parliamentary efforts to create a stronger, permanent and more representative trade and agriculture commission – particularly in the area of public health – to advise the government on trade policy and agreements. We urge MPs, peers and ministers to pursue this very reasonable step in order to protect UK food standards in trade.
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Published 12 Oct 2020
Good Trade Campaign: Campaigning for good trade that benefits people and the planet at home and overseas.
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