FOOD POVERTY AND UK FUTURE TRADE - 03/11/2020
Thank you for contacting me about food poverty and UK future trade.
We all want to do what we can to alleviate food poverty and as such I am encouraged that the Government has taken significant action to make sure children and their families do not go hungry during this pandemic. MPs, including myself, backed the existing emergency package of support measures for families which is worth billions on top of Free School Meals, delivered through the welfare system rather than the education budget. If you would like more information on this, please let me know.
Locally, BCP Council has in total received more than £29 million from the Government, including £3.88m in recent days, on top the £395,909 received by way of the Emergency Assistance Grant for Food & Essential Supplies, all to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic on local people. As an added safety net, the Government has also provided £16 million nationally for food charities. Cumulatively, these measures have benefitted the most vulnerable and those who are on the lowest incomes.
I appreciate that you fear price rises if we are unable to reach a deal with the EU on a free trade agreement with no tariffs, fees, charges or quotas across all good sectors, including food. It remains possible nevertheless that agreement will not be reached and my ministerial colleagues at the Department for International Trade are therefore devoting their energies to ensuring the UK’s new trade powers help reduce food prices and the burden on British consumers through tariff reduction and a programme of ambitious trade negotiations. The UK Global Tariff (UKGT), which will take effect from 1st January 2021, will be simpler and easier to use than the EU’s Common External Tariff (CET), bringing in lower tariffs and rounding down tariffs.
Overall, with the UKGT, just under 50 per cent of products will be zero tariff, compared to 27 per cent under the CET. The UKGT will remove tariffs on £30 billion worth of imports, including food produce, entering UK supply chains. Tariff reduction on machinery will also enable British food producers to provide families with a variety of more affordable foodstuffs.
I know that there are genuine concerns about the effect of future trade deals on the standards of the foods. I appreciate that my constituents and British consumers across the country want high welfare produce, not only for domestic consumption but also because of the unique selling point it provides for our farmers, whose exceptional produce is in demand around the world.
Ministers have made clear these standards will not be watered down in pursuit of any trade deal now that the UK has left the EU. If our future trading partners want to break into the UK market, they should expect to meet those standards. The manifesto I stood on was clear that, in all trade negotiations, our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards will not be compromised. The Government will stand firm in trade negotiations to ensure any deals live up to the values of our farmers and consumers.
The protection is two-fold: first, the EU Withdrawal Act will transfer all existing EU food safety provisions, including existing import requirements, on to the UK statute book. And, second, without exception, all animal products imported into the UK under existing or future free trade agreements from all trading partners, including the EU and others, will have to meet those stringent food safety standards.
Any changes to existing food safety legislation would require new legislation to be brought before, and agreed by, Parliament. It is therefore a misunderstanding to say, as some have done, that “we will have no choice but to let poor quality American food in”. Leaving the EU, its legal framework and its one-size-fits-all policies now gives our country and our sovereign Parliament the ability to make our own decisions on trade, for the first time in more than 45 years.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.