The likelihood of a negative impact on food standards from Brexit has increased, according to a report from Public Health Wales.
The document looks at evidence since January about the possible real-life effects Brexit could have on people’s health and well-being in Wales. The United Kingdom held a referendum on June 2016 and voted to leave the European Union, a move that became known as Brexit.
It found the odds of some negative impacts, such as those relating to food standards or environmental regulations, have increased from possible to probable. This change has been mostly due to evidence of a potential negative impact on food standards in published United States trade objectives.
Kath Dalmeny, CEO of Sustain, has previously said research has shown the U.K. public will not exchange their food standards for a trade deal with the U.S.
“U.K. consumers know now that chlorine washes, hormone injections and overuse of antibiotics are used to mask poor hygiene and low animal welfare standards. We want a race to the top on food standards after Brexit, and will continue to press the government to protect our food and farmers’ livelihoods.”
Increase for potential negative outcomes
In the Public Health Wales report, the likelihood of a major negative impact on the food supply has also increased from possible to probable. This was because of the increased chance of a no-deal Brexit leading to a possibly disrupted food supply in the short term.
The prospect of negative impacts on the food safety system is listed as probable and possible for food safety regulation. Both of these did not change in the latest report.
Professor Mark Bellis, Director of Policy and International Health at Public Health Wales, said it’s easy to forget that Brexit is an issue that is already impacting many people in the country.
“That is why Public Health Wales has now conducted two assessments of how Brexit may affect the health and well-being of people living in Wales. Our latest assessment shows little evidence of change in the likelihood of positive impacts since our last analysis in January. On the other hand, we have seen the likelihood of other potentially negative outcomes increase.”
The original report had nine potential actions suggested for Welsh public bodies, organizations, and agencies. The latest analysis recommends action in additional areas, including further research to understand the impact of Brexit as it occurs and how any effects can be mitigated for the future.
Liz Green, program director for Health Impact Assessment at Public Health Wales, said the likelihood of negatives outcomes has increased.
“With our previous analysis in January, we highlighted the need for action to maximize any potential opportunities for improving health and well-being in Wales following Brexit, as well as mitigating or preventing any possible negative impacts or unintended consequences. This new analysis indicates little evidence of change in the likelihood of positive impacts, while the likelihood of other potentially negative outcomes has increased.”
The review’s findings suggest that while Brexit will affect the whole general population, there could be vulnerable groups who may be particularly affected. For example, elderly people and those who have chronic conditions or disabilities, who require access to medication and health and social care services, and who may also be on a low income.
Brexit agreement reaction
An agreement on Brexit was reached this week between the U.K. and the European Union but Members of Parliament in the U.K. must vote on it this Saturday (October 19).
Copa and Cogeca, CELCAA and FoodDrinkEurope said the deal paves the way for an orderly withdrawal which provides predictability to operators in the EU agri-food chain.
They also endorsed the revised political declaration on the ambition to conclude a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with zero tariffs and quantitative restrictions between the two parties. In 2017, EU27 agri-food exports to the U.K. amounted to €41 billion ($45.7 billion) while U.K. exports to the EU reached €17 billion ($19 billion).
The three organizations called for the ratification of the deal by the EU and the U.K. before October 31, the date the U.K. is scheduled to leave. They said everything must be done to prevent the U.K. from leaving without an agreement.
National Farmers Union president Minette Batters said it was important to remember that if the deal is agreed by U.K. and EU parliaments that it only determines how the U.K. withdraws from the EU and does not cover long-term future of the relationship.
“It is vital that the government has a long-term aspiration to ensure that British farming standards are not undercut by an ambition to open up British markets to food which would be illegal to produce here and that there is free and frictionless trade with the EU in the long term.”
Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said it is critical that the threat of a no-deal Brexit on October 31 is lifted.
“In our view, when compared with the deal secured by Theresa May, this deal represents a backward step in terms of securing frictionless trade with the EU. It also sets us on course for regulatory divergence from our largest overseas market on critical food safety, science, and quality issues – areas where we are world-leading.”
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