The father of prime minister Boris Johnson believes the UK can’t have its cake and eat it too when it comes to a no-deal Brexit and ensuring food standards aren’t compromised.

Essentially, the UK is bound to certain food importation standards while it’s in the European Union. But leaving the EU with no deal could allow cheap food to be imported, which would introduce produce with drugs and pesticides that UK farmers aren't allowed. That means produce from chlorinated chicken, to pork treated with a potentially carcinogenic antibiotic.

When asked about this shortfall on the Sustainable Food Trust’s podcast, Stanley Johnson, the prime minister's father, responded:

We must not throw away the baby with the bathwater, as we have spent 30 years doing this whole array of European environmental legislation, including, by the way, on what you might call processing and production standards, which are absolutely fundamental to the ‘level playing field’ concept of free trade.

And anybody who thinks, oh well we can have a free-trade agreement with the EU, but we don’t have to bother about harmonisation of processing and production standards is, you know, in cloud cuckoo land.

On animal welfare in the UK, Stanley Johnson added:

I cannot believe that the EU will allow a free trade agreement if we are seen to be profiting from our legally independent status to have less than optimal animal welfare standards.

Podcast host, Patrick Holden agreed with Stanley Johnson’s take, offering this blistering attack on how the government has handled arguing for trade deals:

Stanley Johnson is rightly worried, the government has already failed to incorporate a key aspect of EU animal welfare standards into UK legislation and is in danger of sacrificing our high food standards to get free trade deals with the US and others.

This would be a historic mistake – bad for our health, nature, climate change and our country’s future food security. As we emerge from Covid-19, Britain should become the world leader in sustainable food and farming, not get dragged into a race to the bottom.

In May, UK farmers, environmentalists and consumer groups urged the government to prioritise agriculture standards.

Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union said at the time:

Our trade policy must reflect our moral responsibilities to the planet and the people and creatures that live on it – protecting our natural environment, caring for our farmed animals, and working toward a more sustainable, climate-friendly way of farming and food production.

We are at a make-or-break moment for British farming. We have the chance to become a global leader in climate-friendly farming, and neither farmers nor the public want to see that ambition fall by the wayside because our trade policy does not hold food imports to the same standards as are expected of our own farmers.

Trade deal negotiations between the US and UK are currently “stuck” and agriculture is reportedly the main sticking point.

It’s hoped a deal would be struck by September but experts warn it’s unlikely to happen by the end of this year when the transition period out of the EU will end.

Please log in or register to upvote this article
The Conversation (0)