Fury as Government waters down post-Brexit food standards | Brexit

Animal welfare campaigners, food policy experts and farmers reacted with fury after the government watered down the standards of the post-Brexit trade deal in its food strategy, released on Monday.

In a version of the strategy leaked to the Guardian on Friday, the government pledged to make it easier for countries to import goods if they maintain high animal welfare standards.

The draft reads: “We will seek liberalization related to animal welfare in our [free trade agreements]allowing us to offer more generous liberalization for products certified to meet certain key animal welfare criteria specified in the agreement.”

But the final version lacks this and simply pledges to “take into account” animal welfare and the environment when it comes to free trade agreements.

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton, said: “It feels like another shamefully wasted opportunity to cement strong animal welfare protections into our free trade agreements.

“We need a full explanation from the government as to why this item was removed and at whose requests.”

The government’s white paper, billed as the first such strategy in 75 years, rejected most of the ambitious policies of food czar Henry Dimbleby, which he outlined in a report published last year.

Dimbleby made a number of high-profile suggestions, including a significant expansion of free school meals, stricter environmental and welfare standards in agriculture, and a 30% reduction in meat and dairy consumption. None of these made it into the final strategy.

Rob Percival, head of food policy at the Soil Association, said: “It is worth noting that the approach to trade in the final strategy appears to be different from the approach outlined in the draft which was leaked to the Guardian on Friday.

“Why was the strategy watered down? Is this proof of a rift in government, Defra [the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] overtaken by the DIT [the Department for International Trade]? Farmers will need more than positive rhetoric if they are to continue to raise welfare and environmental standards. The government should urgently develop basic trade standards.

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Claire Bass, Executive Director of Humane Society International, said: “This smoke and mirror approach to protecting animal welfare in imported products is simply not going to pass. Instead of adopting a basic set of animal welfare standards to govern trade, we now expect a “declaration” on animal health that will “inform the negotiations”.

“This soft policy approach will make the UK a doormat in negotiations with major trading partners like the US, and in practice UK animal welfare trade barriers will be removed at the first sign of objection. .”

Farmers said they were disappointed with the weakening of the commercial section and that this disadvantaged English producers.

Patrick Holden, a dairy farmer and director of the Sustainable Food Trust, said the removal of the animal welfare pledge was indefensible, adding: “Sadly I’m not surprised to see this section removed. Farmers in this country fear being let down by lower quality imports – and they’re not wrong.

“Britain has had such an opportunity to show leadership in this – it was the missed opportunity, now we are signing these dirty trade deals, and it continues to water down what was already a very watered down package on trade.”

Defra declined to comment.

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