THE EU Parliament has passed something called the Due Diligence Proposal which the EU claims will help tackle deforestation. In reality, it attacks many essential products like beef, coffee, cocoa and palm oil. In the case of palm oil, the law could actually make deforestation worse, by forcing manufacturers to switch to other oils – soybean, olive, rapeseed – which use more land and therefore cause more deforestation than palm oil.
So, if the EU wants to help stop deforestation, why is it declaring war on the most efficient and least environmentally harmful vegetable oil?
It is quite clear that stopping deforestation is not the European Union’s primary aim. If it was, Brussels lawmakers would instead have looked more closely into where the fault for deforestation really lies and what they can actually do to make a difference, rather than slapping import bans on products they do not like and trying to choke unfavourable products like palm oil out of the European market by drowning them in red tape.
Instead, it has become undeniable that the European Union’s true primary aim is to be seen to do something about deforestation.
Whether or not their new measures really do succeed in reducing deforestation a decade further down the line is not of great concern to them right now. Instead, they have generated some sycophantic headlines about “taking action” on the issue of deforestation, won plaudits from all manner of environmental non-profit organisations and campaign and pressure groups, and that’s that.
By waving through the Due Diligence Proposal and passing the bill into law, the European Parliament has admitted that on complex environmental issues, it is playing chequers rather than chess. It is only looking one move ahead. It does not seem to spare a thought for what happens two or three moves into the future.
As a result of that bureaucratic failure, and the inappropriate wielding of power in the wrong place and at the wrong time, the planet will suffer because it will become much more difficult for manufacturers of food, cosmetics and other products to use palm oil, the most land-efficient vegetable oil.
Thank goodness for Brexit.
Thank goodness Britain is no longer automatically signed up to whatever hare-brained new policy proposal the European Union comes up with. Thank goodness we can escape these terrible ideas. That means we don’t have to contribute to this flawed new law which will worsen deforestation, and we do not have to interfere in the food and toiletries markets to make those essential products unnecessarily more expensive during a cost of living crisis.
The EU is also asking us to trust them on the ‘verification’ process. They want millions of private companies who rely on the trade of goods like palm oil and others like beef, soy, cocoa and coffee to have faith that the EU will act quickly and responsibly to ‘verify’ that the products were not associated with deforestation in their supply chains.
Do we really trust them to do that job well? Do we really believe that the processing of that complex paperwork will be quick and easy and fair? Of course not. In reality, this will be a nightmare for companies trying to go about their business. It will add all sorts of new obstacles and delays to free trade within Europe and between Europe and other countries.
This is a textbook example of unnecessary state intervention. Rather than letting the market solve the problem – which was already happening in the case of palm oil, with huge steps forward being made to make the production process even more sustainable and friendly to the natural world – the European Union has instead taken it upon itself to make a ham-fisted interference in the market, which will undoubtedly make the core problem worse and create a whole host of additional new problems.
These are the kinds of benefits of Brexit our politicians should speak of more often. Free of the shackles of inept European law-making and over-regulating, British consumers will be in a much better position in the years to come, thanks to the fact that we are able to buy food, toiletries and other products with palm oil in them without interruption. And to the EU – thank you for the timely reminder of why we voted to leave over six years ago.
Jason Reed is a writer and broadcaster on politics and policy for a wide range of outlets. Follow him on Twitter @JasonReed624