Fairtrade fortnight has just ended, and last Friday I went to support the event at Abergele, which is officially one of the few British Fairtrade towns. Members of Abergele’s Fairtrade group – Rod Brocklehurst and David and Cathy Woodward – had set up a stall in the town’s Tesco store, the focus of much local voluntary activity, thanks to its livewire community champion, Jan Williams. Cathy Woodward, sportingly, was dressed as a Fairtrade banana for the occasion.
The Fairtrade movement has done a huge amount to improve the lives of producers in poorer parts of the world. Not only can you buy a vast range of Fairtrade food products, but even Fairtrade gold is now available.
People are becoming increasingly conscious of the need to consider the wider social benefits that can be spread by bearing in mind the needs of the people of developing countries when shopping. In this context, the UK’s departure from the EU presents significant opportunities.
Take, for example, the case of tuna fisheries in the Maldives, where a considerable amount of UK-consumed tuna is sourced. At present, all processed tuna imported into the UK is subject to an EU-wide tariff of 24%. This means that around a fifth of the wholesale price of Maldivian tuna consumed in the UK is accounted for by the Brussels-imposed tariff charge. The sole exception is fresh tuna, which is subject to a tariff of 0%. This means that EU tariffs constitute an artificial barrier to the establishment of indigenous fish-processing factories in the Maldives. In essence, the wealthy European Union is using its system of tariffs to the economic disadvantage of a poorer, emerging nation; and this pattern is repeated for products from many other developing countries.
Brexit provides the opportunity for the UK to strike free trade agreements with emerging countries and scrap the protectionist EU tariffs that are simultaneously disadvantaging producers in poor nations and pushing up food prices for British consumers. It will mean a better, fairer deal all round; and whether we voted Leave or Remain in July, 2016, that is surely something to be welcomed.