The United States and Australia will fight the UK at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) if it chooses to adopt an EU-style approach to crop protection regulation after Brexit, according to an industry expert.
Chief executive of the Crop Protection Association, Sarah Mukherjee, made the remarks during a meeting of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) yesterday.
The NFU has criticised the EU for inappropriate application of the ‘precautionary principle’, which it claims has led law-makers to focus on theoretical harm, as opposed to actual risk, when it comes to crop protection products.
Global agricultural exporters have also weighed in on the debate, arguing the EU’s stringent crop protection rules are actually just protectionist barriers to trade, but Defra Secretary Michael Gove has repeatedly promised the UK will not relax EU environmental standards.
Ms Mukherjee pointed out both the US and Australia had recently contacted the WTO’s Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade to complain about the EU’s hazard-based approach to crop protection regulation.
She said the US had issued a note to the committee which read: “Whilst we strongly support efforts by members to strengthen public health and environmental issues by regulating the use of pesticides, we remain concerned that the EU’s hazard-based pesticides regulations are insufficiently grounded in science and risk.”
Australia also expressed concern about products being banned without ‘verifiable and scientific proven reasons’.
“These two statements are very revealing in the context of the UK seeking new trade deals with partners outside the EU”, said Ms Mukherjee.
“We will go from a system in the EU where we are relatively big agricultural players to where we will be very small.
“The scale of the organisations in Australia and America is just beyond anything we have in this country.
“We must remember we are not going to be one of the big beasts in any future regulatory arrangement with other countries.”
The Government had come under pressure for refusing to include the precautionary principle in the EU Withdrawal Bill, which copies and pastes European law into British law, but recent moves from Defra Secretary Michael Gove suggest the principle could be transferred using a different mechanism.
Last week, he promised to draw up a national policy statement to underpin future legislation which would ‘draw on the EU’s current principles’.
He has also indicated a new Environmental Protection Bill will be put before parliament at some point in the future.