> Could US Trade Influence Post-Brexit Food Laws? - The Food Safety Company Could US Trade Influence Post-Brexit Food Laws? - The Food Safety Company
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    Friday, 20 January 2017

    Could US Trade Influence Post-Brexit Food Laws?

    Could this sight prove overly-tempting to a Post-Brexit Britain?         - Img: Steven Depolo 
    British food safety regulations, which are currently aligned with those of the European Union, have been susceptible to change since the Brexit vote in June; which, as we’ve noted before, could mean Britain ends up re-writing its food safety laws once it eventually does leave the EU in a couple of years’ time. Following Theresa May’s announcement that Britain will be leaving the European single market; and on the day of Donald Trump’s Presidential inauguration, some consider it likely that many British industries will, in the coming months, venture beyond the Pond in search of new, global markets.

    Such a move would certainly bolster Britain’s political ties with the United States; especially with President-elect Trump’s claim last week that Britain will be ‘front of line’ when it comes to US foreign trade deals (diverging from Barack Obama’s contrary assertion in September). However, whilst such news could be economic manna for a United Kingdom seeking new trade frontiers, many speculate that Trump’s promise also comes with an unspoken understanding: namely, that, in return for its open-arms approach, the United States will get to call the shots when agreeing the terms of such a partnership.

    And that, for the likes of Samuel Lowe, campaign leader for Friends of the Earth, means Britain may be ‘forced into concessions it would never normally make.’ Indeed, as the Guardian reports, former deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg warned on Monday that pushing through a trade deal with the US too quickly could entail ‘harsh compromises on issues such as environment and food safety.’

    But what grounds are there for such speculative claims? Well, bits and pieces. Whilst there are many foreign markets open to the UK, existing political and cultural ties with the United States, accompanied by the lack of a language barrier, could mean British negotiators would be particularly eager to secure ties with Trump’s America, given its appearing to offer a more comfortable option for British businesses than most others – meaning greater concessions than usual could, potentially, be made.

    Furthermore, the relatively short two-year deadline for striking a deal may also play a role in forcing Britain into concessions, as has been widely reported this week.

    Finally, industry itself seems to be moving to accommodate regulatory change. Just this week, a number of British meat exporters travelled to Washington D.C. ‘to receive training on meeting US regulatory requirements for beef and lamb imports.’ As Dr Phil Hadley, head of global supply chain development at the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Beef & Lamb, explained, “The dynamic US market offers significant opportunities for UK beef and lamb at a time when it’s particularly important for us to develop new markets alongside ensuring we maintain demand in existing markets.”

    However, there does remain some cause for optimism in the British outlook moving forwards. Negotiations, after all, are hard to forecast.

    One of the defining characteristics of Trump’s election campaign was his anti-regulatory stance; which runs quite contrary to Britain’s current approach under EU laws, as well as the apparent attitudes of British consumers today. We have written before, for example, on the differences between McDonald’s chips in the UK and the US, which contain fewer additives by virtue of consumer demand rather than legal necessity. However, in a post-Brexit Britain, it’s entirely plausible that a large portion of the consumer base – comprised of a British populace which is adjusting its identity to fit the global mold – could also change its preferences and consumption habits. Indeed, with a generally pro-business government stance emerging to complement such social change, the implementation of looser regulations could well reflect the desires of the new United Kingdom anyway: making the trade concessions about which the media has reported this week perhaps less dramatic than they appear.

    So, there are many vantage points from which to approach the question of whether or not Britain’s likely trade talks with the US will yield big concessions from UK negotiators. Still, beyond the negotiations debate, it is clear that Britain will, in a much wider sense, change in the coming years. For better or worse remains to be seen; but change it certainly will. 

    James Stannard

    James has a Bachelor’s degree in History and wrote his dissertation on beef and protest. His heroes list ranges from Adele to Noam Chomsky: inspirations he’ll be invoking next year when he begins a Master’s degree in London.
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