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European Council president Charles Michel has warned that the UK farmers will face “unfair, cut-throat competition” from around the world if regulatory standards are lowered after Brexit.
In a speech ahead of key negotiations over the UK’s future trade relationship with the European Union, Michel said the UK “has had to come to terms with [the EU’s] quiet strength”.
“The truth of the matter is that the British are faced with a dilemma,” Michel went on to say. “Would they rather maintain high standards (in health and food safety, the environment, etc.)? Or do they want to lower their standards, exposing their farmers and businesses to unfair, cut-throat competition from other parts of the world?
“The answer to that question will determine what level of access we can grant to our internal market,” he said.
It follows a campaign launched by a group of celebrities and chefs, including Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Countryfile presenter Anita Rani and lifestyle coach Joe Wicks, urging the government not to “open up the floodgates to low-quality food imports”.
In a video posted on social media, with the hashtag #SaveOurStandards, they urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “do the right thing” as MPs gear up to vote on the Agriculture Bill.
The campaigners also suggested the focus of the Trade and Agricultural Commission, which was launched earlier this year, is too narrow. “Our vision is a brand Britain selling high-quality food all over the world,” they said. “When it comes to food standards, let’s have a race to the top not a race to the bottom.”
The House of Lords recently backed an amendment to the Agriculture Bill that requires food products imported to the UK as part of future trade deals to meet or exceed Britain’s own standards. The bill will be considered again by peers at its third reading in the House of Lords on the 1st October before it returns to the House of Commons.