Leaving the EU: Food and Drink Standards

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons on 17th January 2019.

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Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

What steps he is taking to maintain food and drink standards after the UK leaves the EU.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

As we leave the EU under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, retained EU law will ensure that we maintain our existing food and drinks standards.

Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

The Secretary of State has previously been reported as promising a genetic food revolution in the new year. In a statement, the National Farmers Union warned in the strongest possible terms against any lowering of food standards post Brexit. Will the Secretary of State or the Minister now put an end to this uncertainty, which the Secretary of State created? Will he accept an amendment to the Agriculture Bill to ensure that the standards of our high-quality produce are never lowered or diluted?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

Order. I see that Richard Graham is now scampering into the Chamber. He will have to catch his breath. The fella’s missed his question—dear oh dear! Anyway, it is better later than never. It is good to see the chappie, and I am glad that he is in good health.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We have been absolutely clear that we will not water down or dilute our approach to food standards, food safety or animal welfare in pursuit of a trade deal. Any future treaty establishing a trade deal would of course come back to this House under the provisions of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 and would be subject to a ratification process by this House.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

Is the Department considering improving and increasing standards post Brexit?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

As we leave the European Union and establish national control in these areas, of course it is possible that we can improve our legislation in a number of areas where EU regulations do not quite work.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

The Codex Alimentarius sets the standards used by the World Trade Organisation. Reportedly, the UK hardly ever speaks up in defence of strong food safety labelling and marketing safeguards at those meetings. What confidence can we have that the UK Government will do so post Brexit?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I do not accept that caricature. Indeed, we worked very hard last year to ensure that a British official took the chairmanship of one of the important Codex committees dealing with food standards, and internationally we are always promoting animal welfare and food standards through organisations such as the OIE and Codex.