Labour demands Johnson refuse to sign post-Brexit Brazil trade deal that aids Amazon destruction

Andrew Woodcock
Handout aerial image of smoke billowing from fires in the forest in the Amazon biome in Itaituba, Para State, Brazil, on 23 August 2019: Victor Moriyama/Greenpeace /AFP

Labour is demanding guarantees from Boris Johnson that he will not sign a post-Brexit trade deal with Brazil if it fuels the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

In a warning to the prime minister to be wary of a deal with far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, who has been accused of encouraging loggers and ranchers to clear the forest, shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner said: “We cannot risk our planet to buy cheap beef.”

Mr Johnson has refused to join French President Emmanuel Macron and Irish premier Leo Varadkar in threatening to block a South American trade deal if Mr Bolsonaro fails to live up to his commitments to protect the environment.

Stressing his unwillingness to disrupt trade at a time when fears of a global showdown are rising, the PM said that some leaders at the G7 Summit in Biarritz were using the catastrophic wildfires in the Amazon as an “excuse” to interfere with free trade.

But Mr Gardiner warned that a deal with Mr Bolsonaro might mean UK consumers eating beef from cows reared in the very areas currently being cleared of their ancient forest by fire.

He pointed to the recent visit to Brazil by International Trade Minister Conor Burns, who posed for pictures drinking champagne with Brazilian minister Marcos Troyjo, who has explicitly backed Mr Bolsonaro’s policy of deforestation.

Reports by environmental groups have shown links between beef imported from Brazil and sold in UK supermarkets and deforestation in the Amazon.

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The Amazon is a key carbon sink for the world’s carbon emissions and its destruction has a major impact on the global effort to tackle climate change. In addition the Amazon is home to an estimated 10 per cent of the world’s species.

Mr Gardiner said: “While the Amazon rainforest burns to clear space for cattle and crops, the Conservative government is cosying up to Brazil’s far right President Bolsonaro.

“Any post-Brexit trade deal with Brazil must guarantee that the UK is not further contributing to the destruction of the Amazon. We cannot risk our planet to buy cheap beef.

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“The Amazon is our planet’s great shield against climate change and we are wilfully destroying it. The homes of indigenous people and millions of plant and animal species are under threat.

“Boris Johnson’s vision for Britain after No Deal Brexit seems to be that we sell off the NHS to Trump’s America, trash the Amazon with a deal with Mr Bolsonaro and fuel war by selling arms to the Saudi dictatorship.”

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