Unite member and food security academic Charlie Clutterbuck has warned that not being within a customs union with the EU would result in a “race to the bottom” on UK food and farming standards.
Clutterbuck, who has a sat on an number of expert agricultural panels and is the author of Bittersweet Brexit, made the warning following reports that the government is preparing for a no deal Brexit, including plans to stockpile food and medicines.
Clutterbuck said plans by hard-Brexiteer Tories to reject any form of EU customs union deal and open British markets to cheap US imports could “decimate” Britain’s rural economy.
He said: “It’s not just chlorinated chicken or beef injected with growth hormones, it is white blood cells in milk and cheap corn. The tariffs around a customs union are taxes that are deliberately there to protect our farms and food producers, workers and animals included. For the sake of cheap food we could wreck our countryside.
“The risk is that standards would be driven down by cheap imports and that it would be a free for all. Anyone trying to maintain them would be undermined at every turn. We need a customs union for a very good purpose, to keep our countryside alive.”