Imports of products such as butter, cheese and chicken from non-EU countries with lower production standards will ‘dramatically rise’ if the UK unilaterally removes tariffs after Brexit, according to a new report.
The paper, published by the Green Alliance and Food and Nature Task Force, suggested butter imports would increase by 26 times, chicken by 17 times and cheese by five times.
In October last year, it was revealed the Department for International Trade was considering dropping all tariffs if the UK left the EU without a trade deal, though Defra Secretary Michael Gove later said this would not be his ‘preference’.
The new report suggests such a policy would result in lower food standards, lower agricultural standards and higher environmental costs.
Shaun Spiers, executive director of the Green Alliance, said: “Some Ministers have given warm words about not trading away our precious natural environment in return for chlorine-washed chicken.
“But the cold, hard logic of trade negotiations will render these assurances worthless unless they firmly commit to a trade policy which does not threaten UK farming and the environment.
“The cheap food narrative of Liam Fox and others in Government should worry anyone who cares for the British countryside and the quality of the food we eat.”
The report calls on Government to improve information about food origins and production methods to allow shoppers to make informed decisions about their purchases.
It also recommends the Trade Bill is amended to guarantee the UK’s high regulatory standards will not be weakened in future agreements.
NFU president Minette Batters welcomed the paper, saying it was ‘timely and important’.
“We still do not know what our post-Brexit trading relationship with the EU will look like”, she added.
“With less than ten months before we could start negotiating new trade deals elsewhere, we remain in the dark about what the Government’s overarching approach to trade policy will be – what it hopes to win and intends to concede within those deals.
“This report carries some significant findings and import recommendations. It is right that a well-designed trade strategy alongside domestic policy and regulation which supports our farmers can benefit producers, consumers and the environment.
“Central to this must be a requirement for imported food and agricultural products to meet the same environmental and welfare standards as UK produced food.”