The UK should stay ‘as close as possible’ to EU rules on food and drink after Brexit, according to a new House of Commons committee report.
MPs on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee said EU rules on food safety and protection for products through geographical indications had been positive for the industry.
They warned significant divergence could damage UK exports and reduce consumer trust.
The committee also suggested two sets of different regulations in the UK and EU would add costs for businesses and risk making the UK less competitive.
“Increasing divergence would add to non-tariff barriers according to our witnesses, who see regulatory convergence as a guarantee of consistency”, the report read.
“Convergence minimises costs and administrative burdens for businesses, especially regarding exports.
“Stakeholders warned diverging further might mean having to create separate products for the UK and the EU market – which would be possible for a sector used to adapting quickly to different national markets, but would create unwelcome additional costs.
“It would also mean potentially labelling products differently, which would not be welcomed by the manufacturers where previously they were able to sell the same products across the UK and the EU.”
The committee also suggested the British public would not accept any weakening of animal welfare or food safety rules after Brexit.
“Witnesses associated EU regulation with high product quality and safety standards, whilst the UK is renowned for high environmental and animal welfare standards”, said the report.
“UK customers have shown they would not tolerate lowering of any of these standards, as made clear by the chlorinated chicken controversy.”
The MPs did acknowledge, however, that insistence on maintaining high standards in these areas could have an impact on the UK’s ability to strike new trade deals after Brexit.
US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross has already warned the UK would need to move away from EU standards and the process of protecting foods with geographical indicators to secure a trade deal with America.
It is estimated a third of the global population work in agriculture - making it the single largest employer in the world.
Check out Jobs in Agriculture for the latest vacancies from this vast and varied industry.