By David Price
The phoney war continues apace; this week we have seen the bizarre spectacle of grown men and women – who happily chew their way through ‘gallon’ buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken – recoil in horror at the prospect of Brits “having to eat” chlorine-washed US-sourced chicken at home. It’s almost as if Department of International Trade boss Liam Fox is coming round to your house to personally force-feed it to you, like Monty Python’s Mr Creosote in The Meaning of Life…
This, ladies and gentlemen, is what is called a ‘moral panic’. It’s not a new thing; it’s when a section of so-called ‘opinion formers’ in the chattering classes, closely connected to the mass media, decide that something is bad for you – because it is bad for them – and deem that it must be stopped. They’ve gone on for centuries – back in the eighteen sixties for example, the educated elites decreed that comic books corrupted the morals of the nation and had to be banned. These ‘Penny Dreadfuls’ (so-called because they cost a penny and were, apparently, dreadful) had to be stopped because – so the ruling elite thought – they were influencing the stupid, hapless, ignorant working class. Sound familiar?
As far as chlorine-washed chicken is concerned, the Remain-supporting media bubble doesn’t give a stuff about food hygiene. If any of them bothered to look, they’d see that this particular process has been approved by their beloved European Food Safety Authority. The reason? A very dilute and safe chlorine solution dramatically reduces the amount of salmonella in chickens – and in poultry there’s a lot of it, as many independent studies show. One survey says that 99% percent of chlorine in the bloodstream of the average American comes not from Colonel Sanders and his happy helpers but – guess what – tap water.
No, chlorine-washed chicken is a complete red herring, if you pardon the pun. It’s a proxy for saying, “don’t expose us to anything that isn’t sanctioned by the EU, for it must be bad”. In other words, it is the continuity Remain campaign, continuing. Everything, as far as the Remainers are concerned, is dangerous and evil if Jean Claude Juncker and his cohorts haven’t personally given it the nod. The fact that the EU’s food safety boffins have no problem with it – yet it is banned in Europe – speaks volumes. It is banned in order to protect EU poultry producers – and therein lies the problem. Protectionism is what the EU is about, which is why the Common External Tariff calls for an average levy on non-EU foodstuffs of around twenty percent, rising to 70% for certain items like canned peaches – which are taxed to high heaven simply to protect Italian peach producers. Whilst it may keep southern European farmers in the style to which they’re accustomed, it keeps prices high for British shoppers.
John Longworth, former head of the British Chambers of Commerce – and previously head of global quality management and supply development for Tesco – says there is “huge potential” for removing tariffs. He quotes Treasury research as showing that if we reduce regulation by 10%, we will get between 0.7 and 1% extra growth annually. That’s more exports and therefore more jobs, pushing up wages. On the other side of the equation, it reduces the cost of living and puts more money into the pockets of working people. At the same time, we have the chance to help Africa which currently exports next-to-nothing to the EU. Instead, our guilty consciences are assuaged by vast amounts of foreign aid that goes not to starving people but straight into the pockets of dictators, or – at best – western aid organisations that do very nicely out of its distribution, thanks very much.
Labour’s Shadow International Trade Secretary, Barry Gardiner, completely gets this. He has said that remaining part of the Customs Union would leave the UK bound by EU free-trade deals without achieving the benefits. Look beyond the confected outrage over different ways of washing poultry, and see the benefits for Britain. It’s vital that we ignore the headless chickens of the apocalypse, and press on with getting Brexit right. Beyond the petty, protectionist Brussels club, British people can thrive – and now, Labour is well placed to ensure this, thanks to the Tories’ recent electoral meltdown. Let’s hold the government to account to make Brexit benefit everybody.
Labour Leave shares a number of viewpoints from external commentators, both Leave and Remain, without necessarily endorsing any of the viewpoints therein.
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