There has long been an insistence that we British do not desire those cheap, lousy, foods made by the American agroindustrial complex. The chlorine washed chicken, the hormone pumped beef, we don’t want them therefore we should maintain the laws to keep them out.
This never has actually made any sense. If we don’t want them then we’ll not buy them. If we won’t buy them then, after some initial imports rot unsold, no more imports will happen. Thus the justification for the law – no one wants the stuff – means that the law isn’t needed.
Now, it can be true that some do want it and some don’t and therefore we need a law to keep it out. But that is to be insisting that some people won’t get what they desire and why should we have a law that does that? It’s even possible that so many people will want it that the producers of that more expensive, British-style, stuff all go bust. But then why should all consumers be held to ransom to produce that higher quality goods that only a few do in fact desires?
It’s even possible, and this is closest to reality, that some think that all should reject those cheaper products therefore the law should force us all to do so. But again, why, in a democracy, should the law be used to impose upon us in that manner?
What we’d really like to know is which of these various justifications or explanations the government does actually believe itself. we know:
Britain is prepared to permit imports of chlorinated chicken from the US but will slap high tariffs on cheaply-produced food in order to minimise the impact on British farmers.
The latest Government proposal for a trade deal with the US is for a “dual tariff” regime that imposes different levels of duty on imported foods, depending on whether they comply with UK animal welfare standards.
Hormone-fed beef, chlorinated chicken and other foods that use techniques banned in Britain will be allowed across the Atlantic, but ministers want to use tariffs to make it uneconomical for US producers to export them to the UK.
The government agrees that we will indeed trade high welfare and production standards in order to gain cheaper food. Therefore we must be taxed out of this preference.
That is, they know they’re doing what we – or a substantial minority at least – don’t want them to do but are going to do it because, damnit, we can’t have the proles actually determining policy, can we?