FORMER Eddisbury MP Antoinette Sandbach has warned of an ‘imminent threat to food standards and animal welfare’ if the government continues with plans to allow the current regulations to be negotiated away in Brexit trade deals.
Antoinette, who was one of the Tories to rebel against Theresa May’s government in voting for an amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 in December 2017, which guaranteed MPs a vote on the final Brexit deal agreed with the European Union.
She was eventually booted out of the party by Boris Johnson and joined the Liberal Democrats over her hard stance in trying to prevent a no-deal Brexit. In last December’s election, standing for the first time as a Lib Dem candidate, she lost her Eddisbury seat to her Conservative replacement Edward Timpson.
Despite losing her seat as an MP, Antoinette has continued her warnings over a no-deal Brexit.
And during the current coronavirus pandemic, she now says that the farmers who have kept the country supplied during the crisis, will be ‘under threat from future trade deals and a potential no deal scenario’.
She made the comments speaking to the Movement 46 website, which is a group describing itself as ‘A movement for liberal internationalists of all parties’.
She goes on to speak of the impact that tariffs would have on British farm exports if no deal is reached with the EU. But her main concern revolves around the risk that any trade deals, especially one with the USA, would likely require the UK to accept food that has been produced to lower hygiene and animal welfare standards. She describes this as ‘a race to the bottom’ that British farming will always lose.
She said: “Some people say ‘we don’t have to buy it’. But this ignores the fact that much British produce is used in processed food.
“It isn’t easily identified in the chicken and mushroom pie you might buy for lunch from a retailer. When you buy a pizza from a takeaway the box doesn’t tell you whether the cheese used in the topping was made in the UK or elsewhere.
“A parent doing the shopping with children rarely has time to read the label in detail and will often make a decision on price. That is why it is so important to legislate to make sure our high standards cannot be undercut by other countries not operating to our high standards.
“Future trade deals or a ‘no deal’ with the EU not only risk our welfare and food standards. They mean tariffs on areas not covered by a trade deal, customs checks and countless other new issues facing a farming industry for which the EU represents 60 per cent of its exports.”
In an attempt to prevent this from happening, Ms Sandbach has issued a call to action to her former constituents ‘for all of us who care about our high welfare standards’.
“This is not going to be easy,” she said. “Many MPs, especially Conservatives representing rural seats, know that these safeguards have to be put in place. But they are reluctant to say so publicly or vote accordingly.
“I am asking people to write to their MP requesting that they take every opportunity, in either the Agriculture or Trade bills, to vote for the legal protections that will prevent our food and welfare standards being undermined by any future trade agreements.
“Whether we live in the largest cities or the smallest hamlets, food and animal welfare standards affect us all.”