Like many, given just a few months to prepare for what will be one of the most significant decisions in the UK’s political history, we were concerned about just how much we didn’t know. So we took the opportunity to explore the role of the EU in our food system at one of our regular ‘Feeding Manchester’ events.
Our speakers didn’t hold back on criticisms of the current state of affairs, particularly the Common Agricultural Policy’s favouring of large farms over smaller, more ecological ones, and the EU’s calamitous pursuit of free trade. But whilst recognising its many flaws, it’s fair to say the speakers were broadly in favour of staying within the EU.
Some of the key points made:
* Wildlife & environment – through some of the strongest legislation anywhere in the world, the EU provides UK campaigners with ‘trump card’ to defend the natural environment and offers significantly more funding than would otherwise be available. (Anne Selby, Lancashire Wildlife Trust)
* Animal welfare – The UK leads the way on improving standards in the EU. A Brexit would not only weaken the pro-welfare lobby but would lead to an influx of meat from countries with lower standards. (Agricultural consultant Steve Webster)
* Local food – a Brexit would probably usher in more building on green belt land, more intensive agriculture and factory farms, and less local food. We need tougher regulation for the common good - this is more enduring and effective at EU level (Pete Ritchie, Nourish Scotland)
* Trade deals – TTIP characterises the worst aspects of the EU’s free-trade ideology, but the UK on its own is a driver of the push for deregulation in Europe, and left to its own devices it would likely settle on far lower standards. (Laura Williams, Manchester Global Justice Now)
The NGO Global Justice Now have produced a briefing called 'The radical case to remain in Europe'. Read it here.