The UK government tells its trade negotiators to not let environmental concerns get in the way of post-Brexit deals, according to a leaked document.
The document, signed by the Department for International Trade, suggests the UK shouldn’t refuse a deal if other countries do not mention environmental safeguards in agreements.
The paper, first reported on by Sky News, showed department leaders said the “economic case” was more important when considering trade deals.
Small economic benefits
This is despite the fact that possible post-Brexit trade deals will have even smaller benefits than the biggest deal the government was hoping for with the US, which would have been less than 0.16 per cent of GDP over two decades.
Emily Thornberry, shadow international trade secretary, told Sky News: “It’s really shocking to see a document going round government where they’re essentially saying, ‘never mind about climate change, never mind about the environment.”
Thornberry also referenced UK’s current negotiations with Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro, who consistently sparked controversy over the Amazon forest deforestation.
She said the UK government document essentially says: “Bolsonaro is a difficult guy, if you want a trade deal from Brazil, and he wants to sell us stuff from a rainforest, we probably shouldn’t get in the way that much because otherwise we won’t end up with a trade deal’ – really?”
But a Department for International Trade spokesperson said “this is not government policy, and is not being considered by ministers.”
UK diary linked to Brazil deforestation
Meanwhile, a new investigation by ITV News, Greenpeace Unearthed and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism found some of UK’s most popular dairy brands are linked to deforestation in Brazil.
According to it, Cadbury’s chocolate, Cathedral City cheddar, Anchor butter, Country Life butter, Clover dairy spread, Davidstow cheddar, Arla’s Cravendale milk and Asda’s Farmers Milk contribute to the destruction of the Brazilian forest through soya cattle feed sourcing.
Anna Jones, of Greenpeace UK, told ITV News: “People aren’t really aware that their cheese has deforestation in it.
“The reason why it matters is because these forest that have been destroyed are critically important for our climate and for planetary health. If we don’t have those forests, then our climate will tip into a kind of chaos.”
Boris Johnson urged the world to ‘take action now’ in August
In August, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in a report that humans’ harmful impact on the planet is already “locked in” for decades but the climate crisis could get much worse.
Without rapid and large-scale action to cut down emissions, global temperatures are set to increase – and pass the critical 1.5-degree Celsius threshold in the next two decades.
At the time, prime minister Boris Johnson labelled the report as “sobering reading”, and called for the world to “take action now”, before the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow in November, led by Britain.