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Analysis

Another toxic Tory argument for Brexit

by David Hannay | 09.12.2019

Matt Ridley, a Conservative member of the House of Lords and an ardent Brexiter, has filled four columns in The Times today asserting that the fact that the EU is considering a ban on imports containing the controversial weed killer Roundup (glyphosate) is both bad science and wickedly protectionist.

Leaving on one side for the moment the scientific arguments Ridley deploys, and whether or not we might prefer to be protected from consuming products treated with a pesticide that has been linked to cancer, Ridley misses three important considerations in his polemic.

First, so long as we remain in the EU we will have a say in determining whether substances of this sort should be banned and in ensuring that full scientific risk analyses are carried out before a decision is taken. Outside the EU we will have no say.

Second, if the UK decides post-Brexit to diverge from EU regulations and to apply different, laxer standards in respect of substances banned by the EU, checks will inevitably be needed on goods we are exporting to the EU. The same goes for EU-bound shipments transiting through the UK. These inspections will be time-consuming and costly; there will be a risk that some goods will be turned back. If the EU does ban Roundup, it will understandably not want it to get into the single market through the back door.

Third, regulatory divergence will certainly require checks to be made on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, which, under Boris Johnson’s deal, must conform to the EU’s standards. The prime minister can say until he is blue in the face that there will be no such inspections. But his Irish Protocol cannot be implemented without them – the Commission will insist on that.

You may not be too interested in what one Conservative member of the Lords has to say. But Ridley’s article illustrates vividly the pressure a Conservative government will be under from its own supporters to diverge from EU rules. Voters need to be aware of the potentially serious consequences for our trade with what is by far our biggest export market were we to do so.

Edited by Alan Wheatley

One Response to “Another toxic Tory argument for Brexit”

  • Brexiteer voters so far, by the looks of it, weren’t too interested to protect UK trade to the EU, so why would they suddenly want to let that influence their underdeveloped little minds now?