The Brexit chickens are coming home to roost

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My article for the Edinburgh Evening News on the Brexit shambles. You can read the full article on the Evening News website.

Barely a meal goes by without mention of Brexit. Yet almost 15 months after the vote, we are no clearer exactly how it will affect us all. In fact, there seems to be less clarity every time a member of the Government speaks.

I, for one, am not going to let this Tory government off the hook on Brexit. I will make surethey know all about Edinburgh’s concerns for jobs, investment and for their families’ future.

In all, 74% of our city (78% in Edinburgh South) voted to Remain and the consequences of leaving the EU are becoming more apparent every day – inflation up, government finances worsening, investment drying up, recruitment and retention of the best employees becoming difficult and the major sectors who employ hundreds of thousands of people facing an uncertain future.

With Theresa May spending more time arguing with Boris Johnson about who’s doing the driving, it’s left to MPs to ask important questions about where we’re actually going. The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary might talk like they’re in charge of the show, but the rest of us see it’s a farce - and don’t find the punchline funny at all. They will fight over the keys to Number 10 while the rest of the country watch and wait with baited breath.

One thing we can be certain about is that Brexit will affect almost every aspect of our lives – and I would like to mention the food we eat.

For decades, we have worked with the rest of Europe to raise food standards. This ‘food to fork’ approach starts with high standards of animal welfare on our farms and ends with your plate. Brexit could put these world-leading standards at risk.

This came into public consciousness over the summer with the prospect that a future trade deal with Donald Trump’s US Government might mean importing chlorinated chicken or antibiotic beef in return for increased exports to America grabbed our attention.

Clearly, the USA takes a very different approach to food standards and health than the UK. Tory Environment Minister and arch-leaver Michael Gove was asked if he would allow chlorinated chicken into the UK as part of a trade deal. He said not – but I am yet to be convinced. If the price to pay for a trade deal is tucking into chlorinated chicken for our Sunday roast, then the Tories might just be tempted to sit down and chew the fat with The Donald.

Edinburgh and the Lothians can play a big part in keeping the food we eat safe once Britain leaves the EU - through the world-leading experts working at places like King’s Building in my Edinburgh South constituency and the Bush Estate in Midlothian.

They are already thinking about how Brexit will impact their research and how they can train young people to help keep food standards high in future. I feel it is important to raise the profile of the great work they do - not just in Edinburgh, but at other UK universities.

These same world-leading scientists (many of whom are EU nationals) work closely with industry to ensure British agriculture can access the best practical advice on how to compete in global markets after Brexit.

The economics of Brexit are fundamental, but day-to-day issues such as the quality of the food we eat and the air we breathe should not be sidelined. We should be proud of the world leading research and development we have on our doorstep. This must be protected, supported and enhanced.

The issue of safe food in future? That’s something we can all get our teeth into.


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