Brexit, trade & the environment: what’s the big deal?

Now as we all know Brexit means Brexit but what also means more specifically is that right now the US and the UK are in talks about a trade deal and that deal could have serious consequences for the environment – here’s how it works Trade deals these days are mostly about creating a level playing field for businesses in participating countries so that they can trade fairly with each other and what that means is making sure that regulations in participating countries are roughly similar Now depending on your perspective regulations are either irritating red tape that stop you making any money or having any fun or useful safeguards that stop coal companies polluting the atmosphere Whatever your opinion, what matters here is that the US as a rule and the Trump administration in particular doesn’t like them, whereas the EU does and a lot of these regulations relate to protecting the environment So loads of things that the EU has banned because they could be harmful to our health or to the environment are totally fair game in the US From the chemicals in your cosmetics to the pesticides sprayed on the crops that you eat the regulatory gap between the US and the EU means that life in Paris, France and Paris, Texas is very different Now this gap exists mainly because the EU has a precautionary approach to regulation That means if the EU suspects a product can cause harm, it can issue a ban Whereas the US asks that harm be proven before it issues one and that can be expensive and take a long time So as trade talks with the UK begin, the US is going to want to wrangle it so that we have a system that’s welcoming to US exports from chlorinated chicken to veggies sprayed with bee-harming pesticides They’re going to want our regulations to match theirs This goes beyond food standards by the way Insisting that we have the same rules as the US and they’re applied in the same way could mean that local communities have even less say over something like fracking Incidentally, US fracking uses a lot more chemicals than UK fracking right now So can’t the UK just demand that the US meet our environmental standards? Or refuse to include the bits that we don’t like? Well, sadly even if international trade secretary Liam Fox kicks down the door to the negotiating room demanding rigorous environmental standards We might just not have the power to get that done When trade talks started in Washington in July Fox turned up with a team of 27 delegates which might sound impressive until you find out, as Unearthed did that only one of them had any experience negotiating trade deals Meanwhile the US had a team of 77 at least 20 of which have decades of negotiating experience It’s a bit embarrassing really So with America trying to get the best deal for American companies some people in the UK are worried that whatever kind of trade deal we end up with it will mean we have to lower our standards That’s why there’s been heated debate in Parliament over whether or not MPs will get to vote on a deal before we go ahead with it So that’s it That’s why all this trade talk is kind of a big deal If you want more stuff like this subscribe to Unearthed weekly and get the best of our original journalism and all the environmental news that matters delivered to your inbox every Friday

Comments 2

  • Is it not a a trade deal with the US that has always been the agenda for the Brexiteers? No TTIP via Europe, not a problem anymore. Trumpist economic protectionism..except the uk does not make/produce much other than financial services these days. Your only choice for your next washing machine will be a whirlpool , and they dont come with a good reputation! Still I am not an expert and wonder if all the bits that are stuck together to make a whirl are manufactured in the USA ? Thanks Mrs Thatcher for the neo liberal mess we, and the environment are all in.

  • If we get shitty US food standards after brexit I might leave this dumpster fire of a country.

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