Update 23 August 2020. International Trade Minister Rt Hon Greg Hands MP replied to PACTS and we had a useful online meeting on 22 August. We were pleased with his commitment to uphold safety standards. We will continue to monitor the talks as the devil lies in the detail. Minister reply to PACTS 13Aug2020
PACTS is seeking to ensure that future international trade deals do not reduce the safety standards for vehicles in the UK – whether home-produced or imported.
PACTS has written to the Secretary of State for International Trade, Rt hon Liz Truss MP, urging her to commit to upholding fully UK vehicle safety standards in any future international trade deals and not permitting imports to the UK of vehicles which do not fully meet our standards. PACTS is concerned that other government will put pressure on the UK to accept lower safety standards, particularly in a deal with the US where negotiations seem to be most advanced. This would be detrimental not only for the safety of drivers and passengers in such vehicles, and also to pedestrians, cyclists and occupants of smaller vehicles.
In the BBC report by Roger Harrabin, the president of the American Automotive Policy Council calls, for the UK to accept US safety standard vehicles, claiming incorrectly that US and UK safety standards are equivalent. This give us concern.
We are encouraged that the Secretary of State has said, in a Parliamentary Answer to PACTS Chairman, Barry Sheerman MP, that standards will not be reduced. We know, however, that trade negotiations are tough and compromises are often made so we will be monitoring the situation closely to ensure that this commitment is fully honoured.
PACTS has provided a briefing paper – PACTS briefing on FTAs and vehicle safety 10July2020 – highlighting the differences in UK and US vehicle safety standards. This shows that US standards are inferior for front and side impacts protection and that pedestrian protection measures, current and soon-to-be improved, do not apply in the US. It also shows the deteriorating road casualty trend in the US, particularly for pedestrians.
The UK standards are those of the EU. They are supported by the UK automotive sector. The SMMT makes clear that it does not want any diminution of safety or environmental standards in a UK-US trade deal.
David Davies, Executive Director of PACTS, said
“The UK public has already made clear its objection to chlorinated-chicken. If the government wants to see the increase in walking and cycling that it has advocated we must not import hormone fed vehicles.
“The UK has a relatively good road safety record. Improved vehicle safety standards, often based on UK research and development, have been a major factor in achieving this. By contrast, the USA has, for an advanced industrialised country, a poor record that is getting worse. Their path in vehicle safety is not one we should follow. Nor should it be left to consumer choice – this does not work,” he adds.
The Department for International Trade has published a detailed document, setting out the UK’s approach to negotiations on a UK-US free trade agreement. This does not mention vehicle safety standards.
PACTS thanks all those who provided input to this paper, particularly Global NCAP. We also acknowledge the important support of the Safer Roads Foundation, strategic partner to PACTS for 2020/21.