Environmental risks to post-Brexit trade deals identified

22nd June 2018

Web brexitenvironment istock 638567638

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Agriculture ,
  • Central government ,
  • Natural Capital ,
  • EU


Simon Alsbury

The UK risks worsening environmental protections at home and abroad should it use future trade deals to drive down food prices after the country leaves the EU.

That is according to a report from the Green Alliance, which highlights how trade policy could undermine sustainable farming practices and expose the food system to new risks.

One example of this includes importing beef from Brazil, which is half as expensive to produce, but nearly three times more damaging to the environment, mainly due to deforestation.

Another concerns the amount of pesticides in food imports, which are four times as likely to exceed legal limits outside the EU, and could be up to 100 times higher if arriving from the US.

There are also fears that lowering prices could force UK farmers to drop their standards to remain competitive, using more pesticides and fertilisers, ploughing up field margins, and increasing water pollution.

This comes after environment secretary Michael Gove insisted Britain would not dilute food regulations, such as importing US chlorinated chicken, in the pursuit of trade deals.

“But the cold, hard logic of trade negotiations will render these assurances worthless unless they commit to a trade policy that doesn’t threaten UK farming and the environment,” Green Alliance executive director, Shaun Spiers, said.

“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.”

Approximately 70% of UK food imports come from the EU, however, the Green Alliance estimate that non-EU imports of chicken could expand by 17 times, butter by 26 times and cheese by five times, post-Brexit.

The think tank is now calling on the government to amend the Trade Bill to guarantee that the UK’s high regulatory standards will not be weakened in trade agreements.

It also recommends that information about food origins and production methods are improved so that businesses and consumers can judge the environmental sustainability of what they buy.

"A greener agriculture policy across all the UK is now within grasp after decades of unsustainable farming practices causing the depletion of valuable stocks of natural capital,” Scottish Wildlife Trust chief executive, Jonny Hughes, said.

“It would be tragically ironic if, in our pursuit of quick trade deals post-Brexit, the UK ended up driving soil, water and habitat degradation in other parts of the world while flooding our supermarket shelves with poor quality food products.”

Image Credit: iStock


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

UK public wants more involvement in planning process, IEMA research finds

Three in five British adults want more public involvement in the planning system, which could be at odds with Labour’s plans to boost economic growth, IEMA research has found.

3rd July 2024

Read more

Ahead of the UK general election next month, IEMA has analysed the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, and Green Party manifestos in relation to the sustainability agenda.

19th June 2024

Read more

Disinformation about the impossibility of averting the climate crisis is part of an alarming turn in denialist tactics, writes David Burrows

6th June 2024

Read more

Rivers and waterways across England and Wales are increasingly polluted by sewage spills. What is causing the crisis and what is being done to tackle it? Huw Morris reports

31st May 2024

Read more

IEMA submits response to the Future Homes Standard consultation

31st May 2024

Read more

In January, the Welsh government consulted on a proposed white paper, 'Securing a Sustainable Future: Environmental Principles, Governance and Biodiversity Targets for a Greener Wales'.

31st May 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close