Update 30/06/20: DIT & DEFRA have announced the establishment of a temporary Trade & Agriculture Commission to scrutinise upcoming trade deals, incorporating the voices of the agriculture sector, and report to Parliament. I have attached Ministers' letter to MPs here.
Update 19/06/20: The FSA have today released a report detailing the role that science will take in protecting consumers’ interests in relation to food post-EU transition. The report, by the FSA's Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Guy Poppy, explains how enhanced risk analysis process will continue to protect consumer interests after the EU transition period by providing the best independent, scientific advice to ensure all food sold in the UK complies with the highest standards. Read it here.
I am aware that there are some concerns regarding recent Parliamentary votes and food safety.
At the end of the transition period the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 will convert all EU standards into domestic law. This conversion will include a ban on artificial growth hormones on beef, and regulations that states that anything apart from potable water may be used to clean chicken carcases. Any changes to these standards will have to come before Parliament and we will be doing our inspections to ensure that those import conditions are met.
In other words, "chlorinated chicken" and "hormonal beef" will continue to be banned in the UK. At the end of the transition period, we will be able to increase our animal welfare standards, such as banning live animal exports, something that was previously banned under EU Single Market rules.
Having listened to the debate in Parliament and read on this issue, I voted against NC1 and NC2 of the Agriculture Bill for various reasons. As I mentioned before changes to food standards, including imports, will have to be put before Parliament, and the Agriculture Bill does not include any provisions to lower our food standards. Rather, the amendment intends for us to impose and enforce our food standard laws and enforcement mechanisms on any country we seek to do a trade deal with.
For example, Japan would have to adopt individual UK laws (and constantly legislate to follow any future changes) for individual exports, Japan would also have to satisfy, under the amendments, an unspecified test regarding the enforceability of our laws which they have adopted.
I have no doubt that the amendments were well-intended (and indeed I agreed with large parts of it), but I am extremely concerned by the unintended consequences of the amendments. Considering the fact that we already have stringent food import standards in place which will already prevent chlorinated chicken, among other things, from being imported into our country, and that the Department for International Trade has already committed to not lowering our agri-food standards in trade deals, the amendment essentially places an unnecessary handicap that may well prevent us from achieving trade deals, and place barriers for our farming industry and our steel industry from exporting our products.
Chair of Food Standards Agency
The Chair of the independent Food Standards Agency has written a letter to MPs clarifying the role of the Food Standards Agency after the Transition Period.
It confirms that once we leave the EU, the FSA will take over the responsibilities of the European Food Standards Authority. The FSA has also stated will be taking on a scope broader than that currently performed by EFSA on food safety, and will take into account further concerns such as consumer habits, perceptions, acceptability and preferences, which might include animal welfare concerns, or those about environmental impacts.
This means conducting more risk assessments, expanding the role of independent scientific advisory committees to inform Ministers and increasing their surveillance capacity to ensure that standards are being maintained.
Trade and Environment Ministers
Meanwhile, Trade and Environment Ministers have co-written a letter to MPs where they commit to upholding food standards. They reiterated that "in all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards" and highlighted that any future changes would have to be brought before Parliament for a vote and subject to scrutiny from MPs.
View the letters below.