European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier has recently threatened to punish Britain with tariffs for reintroducing a previously banned pesticide, even when the same pesticide is currently being used by up to 11 EU states.
Mr Barnier said Britain could lose its zero-tariff and zero-quota trade with the bloc if it slips too far below European regulations, as he mentioned the Government’s authorisation of a pesticide, which is banned by the EU, for use by sugar beet farmers in England.
Meanwhile, Brussels banning most neonicotinoids for use on outdoor crops in 2018, it was discovered that up to 11 European nations have continued to allow their use on an emergency basis.
Currently, the bee-killing pesticide is mostly used in Belgium, Romania, Denmark and Poland, according to a recent analysis.
Mr Barnier told European newspapers that Britain could fall foul of the so-called “level playing field” rules if it allows the pesticide to be used, he said, “One ought to be careful… otherwise there will be consequences in terms of going on exporting without tariff, without quota to our market.”
The Government’s decision to sanction emergency use of the pesticide, because of the threat posed to the sugar beet crop by virus yellows disease, has yet to prompt an official reaction in Brussels.
“Pesticides concern public health, the health of farmers, farmworkers and consumers. Depending on where you set the threshold in that area it can also have an impact on competition and competitiveness,” Mr Barnier added.
Under the new UK-EU Brexit agreement, the UK is free to set its own laws and regulations while retaining tariff-free and quota-free trade of goods across the Channel, but either side reserve the right to impose tariffs on the other if its companies are facing an unfair competitive advantage by significant changes to the rules.
Speaking on claims of disruptions for cross-Channel trade, Mr Barnier insisted it was here to stay because Brexit must have “consequences” and that the deal would not be renegotiated to paper over any cracks in the 1,246-page agreement.
He also states that “There are mechanical, obvious, inevitable, consequences when you leave the single market and that’s what the British wished to do. He, however, said both sides would have to live with the changes, including customs checks on farm goods and a ban on travellers bringing meat and dairy products across the border.