Brexit ‘could mean border checks between England, Scotland and Wales’

Border checks between Scotland, England and Wales could be required because of varying food standards after Brexit, academics have warned.

Issues such as chlorinated chicken and genetically-modified (GM) crops in post-Brexit trade negotiations could create wider differences between the nations’ food safety standards and require border checks between countries, University of Sussex academics have said.

With the Scottish and Welsh governments pledging to remain aligned to EU standards after Brexit, trade deals made by the UK government “could complicate and undermine trade in agricultural and food products”, the report states.


The university study, carried out for the UK Trade Policy Observatory, said different approaches to food standards would likely have a “significant and detrimental impact” on the ability to strike trade deals and “poses an increased risk of fragmentation” within the UK.

Proposed Brexit food safety rules would give UK ministers powers to make policy changes to food safety laws without primary legislation – avoiding the scrutiny of Parliament through the use of Statutory Instruments (SIs).

Such changes have the potential to “vastly increase devolution of food safety regulation”, according to the report, creating the prospect of trade barriers between England and Scotland or Wales.

Dr Emily Lydgate, a senior environmental law lecturer at the University of Sussex and one of the authors of the study, said: “Food safety SIs are a potential flash-point for Scotland – which wants to maintain alignment with the EU – and Westminster, which promises to pursue a US trade deal that will alter UK food safety legislation.

“Negotiating a US trade deal that Scotland opposes is certainly not viable and could even fuel a push for Scottish independence.

“If one or more devolved administrations refuses to realign its food safety regulations from those of the EU to comply with US standards after a US-UK free trade agreement, it will complicate the flows of agricultural and food products within the UK.

“This raises the question of how the UK can avoid introducing internal UK regulatory controls and border checks to ensure that products comply with divergent jurisdictional requirements.”

The report also suggests EU safeguards on food standards will be weakened as soon as the UK leaves, with the government planning to scrap the requirement for independent scientific assessments on the safety of pesticides and allowing ministers to lower thresholds for labelling when genetically-modified crops are used.

Professor Erik Millstone, emeritus professor in the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex, said: “Our analysis suggests Brexit SIs will allow ministers to exercise considerable powers of discretion when authorising ingredients in pesticide products, amending GMO authorisations and thresholds for labelling, authorising food additives and approving substances for animal carcass washes.

“Ministers may issue guidance impacting substantive policy content or make new rules governing food safety by secondary legislation, without proper parliamentary scrutiny and using powers that exceed those vested by the EU in the European Commission.

“Those considerable powers could be a way to overcoming parliamentary resistance and public opposition to aspects of a UK-US trade deal.”

Recommending that devolved nations have “strong oversight over UK external trade negotiations”, the study also calls for primary legislation to be required where there could be major policy changes on food safety.

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us