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UK's position in the trade talks with USA does not look promising - standards on the environment and food, and our NHS, at risk

March 3, 2020 7:45 PM

Cllr Robin Ashby"There is still significant risk that a Trump trade deal could have devastating consequences for the environment, food standards, and our NHS, " Cllr Robin Ashby, who speaks for the Newcastle Liberal Democrats on business issues, says. "Analysis of the UK's objectives published ahead of US-UK trade negotiations show some of the problem areas:

The Environment:

The mandate states that the agreement will be "in line with the Government's ambition on climate". However, later in the document the government warns that the trade agreement could lead to an "increase the intensive use of chemical inputs and increase threats to biodiversity".

We are facing a climate crisis and we must not allow the environmental standards we enjoyed as part of the EU to drop. Instead we must either maintain or increase environmental standards.

Food Standards:

From Chlorinated Chicken to industrial scale farming with low animal welfare standards, food standards have long been a key sticking point when it comes to a US-UK trade deal. The objectives stated in the mandate at first glance seem to be saying all the right things: "This will include not compromising on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards." However, it is unlikely that the US will sign a deal that does not have food standards in it. The negotiating team may see food standards as a small sacrifice to make for a big trade deal. Whilst Boris Johnson may choose not reduce UK food standards, the risk of the US importing food produced at a far lower standard and undercutting UK farmers remains high.

The NHS:

There was widespread uproar following the comment from Trump that "everything is on the table" when it comes to trade, including the NHS. This may be why the mandate very clearly states that "the National Health Service (NHS) will not be on the table."

This will be relieving to many who were concerned that our NHS could be dissected and sold for parts. Whilst the government's assurances are promising, the government must be held to account on this. The current standards that we enjoy in the NHS from free health care to the price of pharmaceuticals must be maintained or exceeded.

Furthermore, whilst the UK's objectives may be saying all the right things, the fundamental question remains: is it possible to keep the NHS off the table, especially with a Trump administration that has attempted to dismantle healthcare provisions in the US?

Are the UK's negotiating objectives plausible?

While at first glance the government appears to be saying all of the right things, their position does not look promising. The US economy is six times the size of the UK economy, and the percentage of UK exports to the US are significantly higher than the US's exports to the UK. Combine this with Trump's "America First" attitude and it becomes clear that compromises are going to have to be made."

The Liberal Democrats will continue to fight to ensure that the standards that were maintained in the UK whilst we were part of the EU, are maintained and not weakened during these trade negotiations.