There are not many farmers in south London, but there are plenty of residents concerned about food standards and food security. It was therefore a blow to many people in south London that the government voted down amendments to protect UK food standards in the Agriculture Bill.
A strong campaign was held by organisations such as the National Farmers’ Union, CLA and Tenant Farmers Association, WWF, RSPB and Wildlife Trusts. There was plenty of national press coverage but sadly, and perhaps predictably, this did not change the mind of the majority of Conservative MPs. They chose loyalty to their whip, rather than to their constituents.
The government speaks from a number of crib sheets that rarely tally; it argued that giving current standards legal status was unnecessary as ministers had already committed to ensuring that UK food standards would be kept in any trade deal. Yet at the same time evidence suggests that declining to write UK standards into legislation assumes that we can always rely on markets to do the right thing. I fear that is not the case. For example, restaurants or takeaways do not usually disclose origin.
A recent YouGov poll showed nine out of 10 people want to protect British standards on food and animal welfare in trade deals. On this unlike so much else, we are united.
Poor and vulnerable people are most at risk of diet-related illnesses, and the most unhealthy and ultra-processed foods, made from cheap commodities, are promoted most aggressively. Any lowering of standards to ensure a quick trade deal will do nothing to help this situation.
The Leave Campaign of 2016 promised a glorious future for the UK. I see no evidence of this unfolding on January 1st 2021. Welcome to bargain basement Britain.
European Movement Wandsworth & Merton