The Guardian claims that Brexit "could create a nightmare scenario for Britain’s food and drink industry, where companies have to abide by EU food regulations if they want to export to the EU but have no say over the regulations."
As David Cameron starts negotiations with 27 member states over reform, nothing has been discussed about what trade relationship Britain would have with the EU if it left. Most assume a deal along the lines of that negotiated by Norway would apply – it meets EU food rules in order to export to the EU. This means if Britain’s food and drinks firms want to continue to export to the 450 million strong single market, they will still need to meet EU requirements.
Currently the UK has voting power in committee procedure, used to agree many EU food rules in Brussels, and in the council of the European Union, where member state ministers vote. Only those with a seat on the committee really know what is going on. Sometimes, food law texts can be subtly changed in wording just minutes before the vote to secure the required qualified majority..
This is that tiresome fax democracy meme, kicked about by the likes of Fraser Nelson. This is actually hugely embarrassing for the Guardian in that Kate Trollope, "Editor of EU Food Policy", makes not a single mention of Codex Alimentarius which makes most of the international standards regarding the production and marketing of food. Trollope is entirely oblivious to the globalisation of regulation.
Not only is Norway an independent member of Codex, it even hosts the all-important Fish and Fisheries Products Committee. Thus, it is the lead nation globally in an area of significant economic importance to itself. When it comes to trade in fish and fishery product, Norway is able to guide, if not control, the agenda on standards and other matters. The EU then reacts, turning the Codex standards into Community law, which then applies to EEA countries, including Norway. But it is Norway, not the EU, which calls the shots.
In all respects, Norway has greater say in Codex Alimentarius affairs than does a UK which is isolated in "little Europe
". Yet Norway is supposed to be the country that is subjected to "fax democracy" and has "no influence" over EU law. It must simply adopt all the Single Market laws coming out of Brussels – or so we are told.
Norway very often adopts Codex standards long before they go anywhere near the EU - and the EU has to consult Norway should it seek to deviate from the global standard - which is increasingly rare in matters of food now that supply chains are global. This really speaks to the ineptitude of our media which only really bothers to report what is in front of them - and only very superficially.
In this we would be hugely surprised if Trollope has even heard of Codex or understands the process by which measures become law. In some respects that is not altogether surprising since the EU obscures the process from view, with most people believing the EU is responsible for regulation. Hence why the Brexit debate is so shallow. In this we would argue that Brexit is essential for enhancing multilaterialism and accountability - but also transparency.
What we also note is that the processes at the top table are often far too secretive, and are very much the playground of corporate vested interests who get to decide the law in a consultative process a million miles away from public scrutiny. Brexit is key to greater global participation but also the first steps in reforming a very murky process
The global regulatory chain is in urgent need of democratisation and we need to drag it into the light of day. Certainly we cannot rely on our media to tell us what is going on. They don't even know where to look.