Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann MLA has criticised the comments from Labour MP Kate Hoey after she claimed the ability to import food at a much cheaper price as a ‘huge upside’ of the UK potentially not remaining in the customs union after Brexit.
Mr Swann said: “I have a lot of respect for Kate Hoey, especially as she is one of the very few MPs representing a GB constituency who has an informed grasp of Northern Ireland affairs.
“I have to say however I was disappointed by some of her comments during the week when she told a major radio station that she hopes the UK will import far cheaper food after Brexit.
“Whilst that may sound all fine and well, in reality not only would it mean our farmers and producers quickly finding themselves in the untenable position of simply not being able to compete, it would mean far inferior and lower quality food, produced to a lower welfare standard, being sold to the British public.
“The example of chlorinated chicken has already been widely discussed but it does remain a major threat, especially as some UK Government Ministers continue to fall over themselves in an attempt to woo favourable terms for a new American trade deal.
“Treating chicken with chlorine perfectly sums up the difference in approaches to food safety between the United States and the UK. Whilst our burgeoning local poultry industry has perfected eliminating bacteria from every stage in the chain.
“So of course meat, mass produced and processed to a far lower standard, might cost a little less but for the sake of a few pence I know which chicken I’d rather my children eat. The same goes for not wanting hormone treated beef, or Brazilian meat which has already been widely restricted for sale due to falsified export certificates and basic veterinary requirements being totally ignored.
“Indeed, a major House of Lords report last July said – ‘the greatest threat to farm animal welfare standards post-Brexit would come from UK farmers competing against cheap, imported food from countries that produce to lower standards than the UK.’
“I want to see food kept at affordable prices, but individuals such as Kate Hoey need to realise when they openly promote the prospect of far cheaper food after Brexit, they are in fact advocating far worse quality food.”