Implications of US imports on UK farmers in a Brexit UK-US trade deal
Through tariffs and food standards, Elen Johnston evaluates the complexities of US-EU-UK economic relationships and the often one-sided effects for UK farmers.
Alarming headlines regarding chlorinated chicken being imported from the US in the wake of Brexit has become a symbol of the fear and concern of a UK trade deal with the US. Many people fear that a trade deal with the US will dismantle UK food regulations and hinder British Agriculture.
Negotiations between Liz Trus the UK’s International Trade Secretary and Robert Lighthizer the US Trade Representative officially began on Tuesday the 5th of May. Due to the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, the talks took place online via video conferencing. The UK Department for International Trade describes the move as a “common-sense approach to negotiations” that will “ensure that talks can progress during the COVID-19 pandemic, while public health and social distancing measures can continue to be respected.”
This first round of negotiations involved approximately 200 negotiators from each side. Prior to negotiations, on the 2nd of March, the UK Department of International Trade published the objectives for the UK’s negotiations. Within these objectives, the Department of International Trade acknowledged “concerns have also been raised about the impact of increased competition from cheaper US exports on the UK market.” and then ensured that “The Government will ensure a balanced approach to tariff negotiations that considers the interests of consumers, businesses, and industrial and agricultural producers potentially exposed to increased competition”. However, without the food regulations of imports written in the law, there is still uncertainty for UK farmers and public health.
A petition by the National Farmers Union (NFU) signed by 254,764 people is lobbying the government to “put into law rules that prevent food being imported to the UK which is produced in ways that would be illegal here.” Jamie Oliver a UK Chef and is known for his work on Healthy school meals, he is supporting the petition and has written an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in this letter he stated: “Boris, I urge you to take a fresh approach to the Agriculture Bill” and that “This is a unique opportunity for you, as Prime Minister, to […] reshape our food system”.
Without the food regulations of imports written in the law, there is still uncertainty for UK farmers and public health.
Cleaning chicken with chlorine was banned by the European Union (EU) back in 1997, “part of wider EU legislation ensuring a high level of safety throughout the food chain, from farm to fork” as put by the European Commission. The EU’s main concern with chlorinating chicken is the concern that it is being done in the absence of good hygiene standards.
However, there could be further implications for UK farmers: without tariffs on imports entering the country while UK farmers face high tariffs from the EU, UK farmers will struggle. Nick von Westenholz, Director of EU Exit for the National Farmers Union states “On cereal products such as wheat and barley, on fruit and vegetables, on eggs, the government has decided to set tariffs at zero on imports. And at the same time, our farmers here producing those products will face high tariffs on any goods they want to sell to the EU”.
From tariffs to food standards the complicated US, EU, and UK economic relationships could have serious implications for UK farmers.