Defra has denied claims it is planning to suspend food controls in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The allegations were made in a new report by the Food Research Collaboration, which said the move would reduce the UK to ‘pariah status’ in the eyes of the EU.
The paper, written by Professors Tim Lang, Erik Millstone and Terry Marsden, together with environmental health specialist Tony Lewis, warned any decision to lift controls on imported food would threaten public health and UK exports.
The report claimed Defra has been considering dropping controls to prevent any delays to imports of perishable food at the border.
It read: “This thinking might be presented as ‘emergency planning’ but it could be catastrophically counter-productive.
“Firstly, it would contradict the Government’s explicit commitment to maintaining high standards. Secondly, it would threaten the UK’s food exports. Thirdly, it could consign the UK to pariah status in the eyes of the EU.”
Prof Tim Lang even suggested one Government advisor had explicitly told him the plans were being devised to ‘avoid parliamentary scrutiny’.
But a Defra spokesman said there were no plans to suspend food safety controls in the event of no deal.
“Our aim is to agree a deal with the EU which keeps trade as frictionless as possible and maintains the current system of checks and controls at the border,” the spokesman added.
“Food imports from third countries will be subject to the same robust checks as they are now and our high standards will be upheld.”