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UKTPO-Briefing-Paper-37.pdf (218.91 kB)

Brexit food safety legislation and potential implications for UK trade: the devil in the details

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posted on 2023-06-09, 19:33 authored by Emily LydgateEmily Lydgate, Chloe AnthonyChloe Anthony, Erik Millstone
The Government’s approach, as set out in the EU Withdrawal Act (2018), is to transfer EU law into UK law and address any ‘deficiencies’ in that law (such as references to EU institutions) by secondary legislation. • This has resulted in a large body of new food safety legislation that replaces EU legislative processes and institutions with those of the UK. • Detaching UK food safety regulation from EU bodies, while maintaining agricultural and food systems that are no less harmful to the environment and public health, is a challenging task. This is because the UK must develop capacities, competencies and procedures that have not been required or available domestically for many years.• It is thus implausible to suggest, as the Government argues, that new UK food safety laws constitute minor technical changes and avoid ‘new legal frameworks’.• Further, this new legislation gives ministers powers to change retained EU law without any primary legislation in the future. Only primary legislation provides Parliament with adequate time and opportunity to scrutinise and amend proposals; it also allows for wider consultation and public participation.• There is tension between the regulatory divergence that these Statutory Instruments (SIs) permit and the imperative to maintain open borders within the UK. Empowering devolved nations to change food safety legislation could complicate trade in agricultural and food products within the UK.• Devolved food safety standards could also undermine the UK’s ability to take a unified approach to external trade negotiations.• Powers for ministers to change retained EU law further weaken Parliament’s already tenuous ability to oversee external trade agreements.


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UK Trade Policy Observatory



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Brighton, UK

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University of Sussex

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