Brexit and Trade

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As the UK builds a future outside of the European Union it will create new policies that have huge implications for people, the environment and the food we produce and eat.

Sustain is campaigning to ensure that decision makers uphold good standards in the UK as these benefit people and the planet at home and overseas.

We focus on protecting existing high food, farming and fishing standards, advocating for improvements and reflecting the concerns of concerned citizens, independent or smaller producers and those experiencing disadvantage.

The UK has exited the European Union and the government has created new legislation. It has rolled over quite a number of trade deals, signed new agreements with Australia and New Zealand as well as applying to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The UK-EU agreement has been signed. With the UK now outside the EU customs union and single market, food exporters are subject to many more sanitary and welfare checks and requirements for paperwork. The UK can choose to deviate from EU regulations as it sees fit - but if that impacts trade and investment with the EU, the trading bloc could choose to impose counter measures.

The Agriculture Act requires Defra and the statutory Trade and Agriculture Commission to assess the impact of future trade deals on UK food and farming.  Reports will now be laid before Parliament, alongside the text of proposed trade deals, covering the impact of that deal. Advice is supposed to be sought on health aspects too.

The food system in the UK employs 3.9 million people and is worth £113 billion to GDP.

The UK imports over 80% of its fruit and just under half of its vegetables.

If allowed to recover, UK fish stocks could yield 45% higher landings, an additional 2,400 jobs and could be worth £1.4 billion annually to the UK.

The US has more than three times as many approved pesticides as the UK, Australia more than two and a half times.

Antibiotic use on US farms is five times the amount as in the UK. In Australia, the use of antibiotics in poultry is more than 20 times higher.

“Survey after survey shows the public want to maintain the food standards they enjoy. The Government has repeatedly promised the public that they will not compromise on environmental, animal welfare or food standards but has refused to protect them in law. The Government needs to send much stronger signals to trade partners that it will only trade in the high standard produce that UK consumers want to see on their plates.”

Orla Delargy, Sustain Head of Public Affairs

What we're fighting for today

Budgets and regulations to support Agriculture Act schemes on public goods and high welfare farming, with well-regulated supply chains.

Core standards for all food sold in the UK, both domestically produced and imports.

The right of parliament to participate in setting trade negotiating objectives, guaranteed debate time and a vote on deals.

Comprehensive assessments on impact of trade on health, environment, animal welfare and farming for the UK negotiating objectives to retain the right of the government to regulate in the public interest and to reject Investor State Dispute Settlement clauses (eg corporate courts).

Our campaigns:

The Sustainable Farming Policy campaign put agro-ecological farming, procurement, land-use, better, fairer supply chains and sustainable diets on the agenda of decision-makers at local and national level.

Our Food for the Planet campaign is aiming to get food better recognised as a cause of - and solution to - the climate and nature emergency. We're aiming to improve food policy and practice at a local and nation level to make healthy and sustainable food the norm.

Our Good Trade Campaign aims to put sustainable food, farming and fishing, and good trade on the agenda of decision makers. We advocate for trade that guarantees people in the UK can enjoy a supply of food that is safe, affordable and good for our health, animal welfare, and the environment..


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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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