Cabinet row as minister calls for new carbon tax on food from overseas to protect British farmers against cheaper imports
- Environment Secretary George Eustice suggested the new carbon tax yesterday
- The levy could protect farmers against cheaper goods from polluting countries
- A government source said carbon taxes only work if also adopted by other countries and could raise food prices for the consumer
Environment Secretary George Eustice sparked a fresh Cabinet trade war yesterday as he suggested a carbon tax could be slapped on food imports.
He said the levy could be used to protect British farmers against cheaper goods from polluting countries.
But Mr Eustice – who is already at loggerheads with International Trade Secretary Liz Truss over plans for an Australian trade deal – faced a backlash from colleagues.
Appearing on Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: ‘There are some quite complex difficulties with free trade deals which economists are grappling with at the moment right around the world.
‘In a world where you want the sovereignty to set your own environmental standards and to mean what you say on that, you do have to consider what happens in the context of international trade.
Environment Secretary George Eustice sparked a fresh Cabinet trade war yesterday as he suggested a carbon tax could be slapped on food imports. He said the levy could be used to protect British farmers against cheaper goods from polluting countries [Stock image]
‘That is why a lot of people are looking – the UK included – on whether there should be, when we measure our carbon emissions, something much more around consumption… so that you measure the carbon of the food and other goods that you import – not just what your emissions are.’
But a Government source hit back, warning: ‘Carbon taxes only work if other nations have them too, otherwise it just amounts to protectionism and limits consumer choice – possibly raising the cost of food.’
The source argued that a carbon tax would ‘ironically do nothing to help the environment because countries will just send their food and goods elsewhere’.
Mr Eustice’s remarks come after former international trade secretary Liam Fox proposed a ‘carbon border tax’ to protect British companies.
He said the policy would push states with lax environmental rules to emit less, while improving domestic support for decarbonisation.
Mr Eustice and Miss Truss have clashed in recent weeks over plans for a trade deal with Australia that promises to sweep away tariffs and quotas on goods and services.
The National Farmers Union has warned that hundreds of smaller family farms will be wiped out as the UK is flooded with cheap, mass-produced Australian beef and lamb.
Its president, Minette Batters, has even claimed that the deal could destroy Britain’s rolling countryside, turning ‘our green and pleasant land’ into the ‘Australian outback’, as small family farms are replaced with vast, Aussie-style cattle stations.
Mr Eustice’s remarks come after former international trade secretary Liam Fox proposed a ‘carbon border tax’ to protect British companies [Stock image]