Brexit gives UK 'once-in-a-lifetime opportunity' to reshape its food system

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Brexit gives UK 'once-in-a-lifetime opportunity' to reshape food system Henry Dimbleby National Food Strategy

Related tags: Government, Report, Trade, European union, brexit, Agriculture

Britain's exit from the European Union gives the nation a 'once-in-a-lifetime opportunity' to reshape its food system, according to the first part of Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy.

The report, published today (29 July), says that for the first time in nearly half a century, the UK can decide for itself how it wants to trade with the rest of the world.

It adds that Brexit gives the UK the potential to put into place a system of importing food that can protect both the environment and animal welfare, as well as mitigate climate change concerns. 

Dimbleby writes that the Government should 'adopt a statutory duty to give Parliament the time and opportunity to properly scrutinise any new trade deal'.

Time should also be made for relevant select committees to produce reports on any final deal, and allow a debate in the House of Commons.

He notes that blanket legislation requiring other countries to meet our own food guidelines would make it nigh-on impossible to sign new trade deals post-Brexit.

Instead he suggests the Government 'should only agree to cut tariffs in new trade deals on products which meet our core standards'.

"Verification programmes – along the lines of those currently operated by the US Department of Agriculture to enable American farmers to sell non-hormone-treated beef to the EU – should be established, so that producers wishing to sell into the UK market can, and must, prove they meet these minimum standards," he writes.

"At a minimum, these certification schemes should cover animal welfare concerns and environmental and climate concerns where the impact of particular goods are severe (for example, beef reared on land recently cleared of rainforest).

"The core standards should be defined by the newly formed Trade and Agriculture Commission."

Other recommendations include that the Government should adopt a statutory responsibility to commission and publish an independent report on any proposed trade agreements.

The report adds that the Government should decide whether this impact assessment function requires the establishment of a new body similar to the likes of those used in Australia, Canada and the US; or whether it could be performed by either an existing body or independent consultants. 

Dimbleby, who co-founded healthy fast food chain Leon, was appointed to oversee the National Food Strategy last year.

It was described at the time​ as being 'the first major review of its kind in nearly 75 years'.

As well as considering the UK's trading future, the first part of the report also reflects on the 'worst cracks' in the British food system that have appeared as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, with other recommendations designed to make sure 'a generation of our most disadvantaged children do not get left behind'. 

The second part of Dimbleby's report, to be published next summer, will examine the food system 'from root to branch', and lay out a blueprint for a greener food system.

To read the first part of the National Food Strategy in full, click here​.

Related topics: Trends & Reports

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