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Under The Radar – 28 May

Ian Taylor, Unsplash

This week, we discuss:

  1. How Brexit has thrown the UK’s edible insect sector into jeopardy

  2. Controversial plans for the NHS to share sensitive data with third parties

  3. A potential trade deal between the UK and Gulf states

The UK’s Edible Insect Sector – Bugged by Brexit

What happened?

The UK’s edible insect sector is in jeopardy due to legal changes triggered by Brexit. While the UK has retained the EU’s novel food regulation in law, it has not included the transitional measures set out by the EU.

What does it mean?

Failing to adopt the EU’s transitional measures is an illustrative of a government struggling to live up to its own aspirations of a Global Britain. And though the pandemic has delayed plans to harness the opportunities presented by Brexit, the need for clarity of purpose will only increase in the months ahead.

Unbeknownst to most, insects form part of the traditional diets of at least two billion people according to UNFAO, with the global edible insect sector set to be worth £3.25bn by 2027. There are already at least twenty-six edible insect businesses in the UK, ranging from cricket farms to restaurants and product manufacturers to retailers, presenting huge growth opportunity for the UK.

Coupled with the fact that the sector carries minimal environmental footprint, which fits with the government’s green ambitions, and their excellent nutritional profile that complements current consumer trends, the government’s position on edible insects seems illogical at best, and negligent at worst.

In truth, no one knows what Global Britain could, or will, eventually look like. But taking the opportunity presented by Brexit to become a world leader in new fledgling industries – like edible insects – seems like a good place to start.

Privacy vs Public Health

What happened?

Privacy campaigners have criticised the NHS for its plans to share sensitive data, including details of patients’ physical, mental, and sexual health, with third parties.

NHS Digital, which is leading the project, said the information will be used to analyse healthcare inequalities and develop new treatments for serious illnesses.

What does it mean?

Foxglove, a campaign group for digital rights, has issued a legal letter to the Department of Health, which claims that the public has not been given sufficient warning to opt-out and that the NHS has not stated which companies they would share the data with.

In many ways, digital rights campaigners like Foxglove are fighting a losing battle. Not only do they have to state their case to the Government, but they also have to convince the public – who already happily share personal data each time they use a smartphone and go on social media – to be concerned about this latest breach of privacy.

And with this medical dataset going towards research, it’s an increasingly difficult case to make: a majority of the British population supports the introduction of domestic vaccine passports, showing that most people are content to give up their private information for the sake of public health.

But despite these difficulties, Foxglove is right to demand more transparency from NHS Digital on which third parties will gain access to the dataset. Data collection on such a large scale is at high risk of leaks; the public needs to be reassured that all suppliers involved will be handling the data securely and that this sensitive information will not get into the hands of security researchers, attackers, or rogue states.

Truss sets her sights on the Gulf

What happened?

Liz Truss, the International Trade Secretary, has revealed that Britain is working on a trade deal with the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

What does it mean?

For Britain, a trade deal with the Gulf states is another Brexit prize for the government and would open the door for British companies to a market with huge wealth and purchasing power. For Liz Truss, securing a deal with the oil-rich GCC would somewhat numb the pain of her department’s inability to make headway on a trade deal with the US, despite it being a priority for Johnson’s administration.

But if the government found the Australian FTA bruising, a deal with the GCC will prove equally, if not more, controversial. The Gulf states are still renowned for their archaic laws and abysmal human rights record, which will likely prove to be a sticking point in any negotiations. Indeed, the government has long been criticised for selling weapons to Saudi Arabia while they relentlessly bomb the impoverished Yemen.

The Gulf states also have a poor record when it comes to trade deals, mostly due to internal rifts that prevent a united front. Despite on-off negotiations since 1990, the EU has been unable to strike a deal, even with plenty of political will in Brussels.

This Week’s Must Reads

  1. ‘Small Businesses Have Surged in Black Communities. Was It the Stimulus?’ by Quoctrung Bui for The New York Times

  2. ‘The secret deportations: how Britain betrayed the Chinese men who served the country in the war’ by Dan Hancox for The Guardian

  3. ‘Third time lucky? Le Pen sets her sights on the Élysée Palace’ by Charles Bremner for The Times

  4. ‘Why Shell’s climate defeat matters’ by Helen Thomas for the Financial Times


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