Helping farmers put real health on our plates

Boris Johnson’s US trade deal will make Britain a paradise for disaster capitalists

The Conservative manifesto made a clear promise. It pledged that in the government’s trade talks, “we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards”. Just six months after the election, the promise has been ditched. Our government is now proposing that chlorine-washed chicken, beef treated with growth hormones, pork from animals injected with a drug that makes their meat leaner, called ractopamine, and scores of other foods produced in the United States by dangerous, cruel and disgusting means will be allowed into this country, as long as higher trade taxes (tariffs) are applied to them.

 The trade secretary, Liz Truss, has made it clear that any such tariffs would be removed within 10 years. It’s impossible to see the American trade negotiators allowing them to pass in the first place. The US intends to secure “comprehensive” access to our food markets, while “reducing or eliminating tariffs”. This nonsense about higher tariffs is a blatant attempt to soften us up, to sugar the toxic pill of US imports that don’t meet our standards. When I say sugar, I mean high-fructose corn syrup.

Full report:

Brexit guru: if you want high food standards “you should never have left the EU”

The man once known in Westminster as the ‘Brexiteers’ brain’ has told the Financial Times that if we are going to insist on stringent animal welfare and environmental standards for imported food, we “should never have left the EU.” 

This will come as a surprise to many farmers who voted to leave but didn’t expect to find themselves competing with low-cost imports produced to a lower standard.

The FT’s report has charts that show only the Americans spend less of their income on food than we do. In addition, UK farmers make less that 1 per cent return on capital employed, compared to between 6 and 12 per cent for all the other links in the food chain. To reduce this further would put many out of business.

A no deal exit would be extremely damaging to the farming sector, but even if an FTA is struck, Britain faces a crucial decision about its food supply outside the EU. The terms agreed with other countries will determine the level of competition farmers will be faced with from foreign suppliers.

Read full report by Yorkshire Bylines: Brexit guru: if you want high food standards you should never have left the EU

Read full FT report (subscription required): Coronavirus: UK farmers face brutal test ahead of Brexit

Full list of MPs who voted to lower our food standards during the Covid pandemic

Under cover of the Coronavirus pandemic and headlines over the Government’s handling of the crisis which has seen Britain suffer more deaths than any other European country, another major public health story has slipped through barely noticed, and has rarely been mentioned in the weekly PMQs.

The most important farming legislation in generations passed its third reading in parliament despite warnings that in a bid to make the UK market pliable for a post-Brexit US trade deal, protections of minimum food safety standards have evaporated, as have safeguards for Britain’s farmers.

With most MPs still socially distanced at home, MPs passed the legislation’s third reading in a virtual vote – 360 – 211 despite guarantees of a minimum standard to protect British food – and therefor British farming – being absent from the overhaul of UK agriculture. A full list of how they voted in this crucial legislation is in the report (link below).

As the bill moves to the Lords for a second reading amid outrage from UK farmers, this weekend former Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson expressed his disbelief that all eight DUP MPs had voted with Conservative colleagues for a bill he said has “the potential to be the last nail in the coffin for agriculture in Northern Ireland.”

He warned: “the Bill opens the flood gates to cheap food imports into the UK from around the world. This food will not have been produced to the same standards achieved consistently by farmers in Northern Ireland. These imports will serve to drive markets down at a time when local farmers are under tremendous pressure.”

Full report:

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