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Brexit and new trade deals: environmental impacts

The UK government wants to make new international trade deals after Brexit. How could this put our environment at risk?
  Published:  08 Aug 2018    |      2 minute read

The UK will need to rethink trade agreements after Brexit. This might mean looking for new trade partners.

One possibility is the government rushing into a trade deal with Donald Trump. Striking a trade deal with the United States would force the UK to scrap current EU standards. This would spell disaster for our environment. To make matters worse, UK Trade Secretary Liam Fox has said that new trade deals forcing lower standards would be accepted.

Please sign our petition urging party leaders to rule out a dirty no-deal Brexit.

The impact on farming

If trading with the US does water down UK food standards, farming practices may follow.

UK farmers would need to produce cheaper food to compete with the US industrial farming systems. The UK might be forced to increase intensification and industrialisation of farming to do this. Not only would hormone-treated beef, chlorine-washed chicken, and pesticide-doused foods, be sold in our supermarkets, but these common US practices could become part of UK production too.

These practices would uphold the environmentally-destructive industrialisation of farming, pose health risks to the public, and worsen the decline in our bees.

Rules on genetically modified crops (GM crops) could also be relaxed, increasing the risk of both social and environmental problems. This could see an increase in the use of herbicides linked to environment damage and health impacts, disruption of local ecosystems from cross pollination with GM crops, and farmers getting trapped into unfair agreements with multinational corporations.

If UK standards do drop after exit day, it would also limit trade with our biggest export market – the EU. The EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier has made it clear that the UK will have to retain current standards if there is to be a trade deal with the EU.

Other trade deals

It’s not just US trade deals that are a threat though. Trade agreements with some countries in South America could require relaxed environmental and food standards, trade deals with Australia could result in hormone-treated beef in UK supermarkets and deals with India or New Zealand might see a relaxation of chemical and animal welfare standards.

In a no-deal situation, the UK will be under pressure to hastily make new trade agreements with countries outside the EU. It is much more likely we’ll enter into environmentally damaging trade deals if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal. And in the scramble to make these new trade deals and manage the chaos of a no-deal Brexit, the environment will fall right down the priority list.

Leaving the EU without a deal doesn’t give the UK government enough time to make new rules to stop trade deals from lowering environmental standards.

We have to make sure our environment and health don’t plummet in an attempt to make new trade agreements. It’s crucial that the option of a no-deal Brexit is taken off the table and environmental protections are incorporated into future trade deals to prevent a race to the bottom.

Will you sign our petition to take no deal off the table?

Please sign our petition urging party leaders to rule out a dirty no-deal Brexit.