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National Trade Conversation: what are your priorities?

Our latest research asked people around the UK about their consumer priorities from post-Brexit trade deals. What are yours?

When it comes to trade deals, what matters to you? Do you understand the risks, the benefits, the complexities? 

These are questions too big for a survey so, back in August, Which? invited 97 consumers from around the UK to join a series of virtual workshops where they got to hear from experts, deliberate, and talk to us about their priorities for trade deals. 

We wanted to ensure that the government’s approach to the negotiations took greater account of consumer interests. 

The aim of this was not to build consensus, but instead to understand the range of views from consumers all over the UK. 


Priorities in common

Four main themes emerged from what people told us during these conversations – weve set them out below, along with an example of some of the feedback we recieved: 

🇬🇧 Maintaining health and safety standards for food and consumer products

“I don’t think choice overrides the need for safe and good quality products”

🇬🇧 Protect consumers’ data and digital rights by maintaining data security regulations

“I’m concerned to learn that the privacy protection is virtually non-existent in the USA and that, for me, would present major, major problems in the long-term. We, as a country, in the UK, have the complete opposite of that”

🇬🇧 Help address regional inequalities by protecting and promoting jobs, skills, and industries across the UK

“Again, building the economy, but not just for these big corporations, but for little Joe Bloggs that runs a greengrocer on the high street”

🇬🇧 Protecting the environment

“If we don’t have a planet, we can’t trade”

Visual minutes were kept for each regional session, which show how these themes emerge and vary across the nation. 

You can read the full National Trade Conversation, along with the methodology behind it, here (PDF).

What are your priorities?

What stands out from you from these consumers’ views? Do you share the same priorities, or are there others you would want to see included in future trade deals? 

What's your top priority for future trade deals?
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Discover more about how future trade deals may affect you


I believe in totally free trade between all countries, obviously health and safety standards are important but as long as these standards are as good or better than ours lets trade with them. The only proviso being no subsidies or dumping allowed.

One thing that appears to be missing from all of this is the NHS. For me it is vital that the NHS continues to be run by the government for the people. NO privatisation and no foreign “interference” as part of a trade deal (No, Mr Trump, we don’t need or want your sort of health “service”).

Nick Mavroyenneas says:
12 November 2020

Obtaining a market for our products is obviously paramount. Free trade with no subsidised imported products and no dumping. Maintaining standards is good up to a point. I find the most important thing is clear, concise and accurate descriptions that we British ADULT consumers can view and use to inform our decisions and choices. The more choices and information, the better.

Marion says:
12 November 2020

I would like the whole conversation regarding trade to change. We as humans on this planet, think it’s all about us. The foremost now is biodervsity. We still think it’s all about us. The planet is slowly dying because of the infinite right of humans. It’s not sustainable. A complete ban on live exports. Factory farming should finish. A change of diet where there is less emphasis on meat. It should be about quality of life for the animals produced. Viruses are prevalent in animals, because they live in horrendous conditions. We like to turn a blind eye to this. But in the end humans will pay the price. I am not optimistic that anything will change. Because only money talks.

Jacqui Flack says:
12 November 2020

Do you actually know anything about farming, in this country, and the strict controls? In fact, farmers apply their own strict controls, as their profits depend on producing happy, healthy animals. Do you realise how many insects get destroyed producing vegetables and crops? Do you realise how that affects pollination? Have you noticed how birds are affected by lack of insects? And the planet is not dying at all – although it does need protection here and there, and there are rogue countries, notably China and India, causing temporary damage. Do you actually know anything about nature?

I am not saying that we should continue eating meat in order to protect animals, but it must be the case that if the population switches from eating animal meat to a non-animal diet there will be far fewer animals on the land. It would not be economical to rear animals just for the leather, wool and bristles that we get from cattle, sheep and pigs and there would be major implications for the landscape as small fields and hilly countryside were turned over from grazing to arable, vegetables or forestry.

I totally agree with Marion’s sentiments. I think if the general public was aware of how most pork and chicken is produced, they might consider paying a little more for higher welfare. A Which? report earlier this year did mention stocking rates on intensive animal units but with a fairly impassive view. It takes undercover investigations from the like of Viva!, Peta and Compassion in World Farming to reveal the horrors going on in UK farms and around the world. Food should be affordable but not cheap – cheap food costs the earth.

And if we don’t use leather, wool and bristles we’ll have to use man-made plastics to do the job.

R Sheriff says:
12 November 2020

My priority is the continuation of provision of drugs and medicines to the NHS for people with long term illness

How about scaling back the provision of drugs and medicines for people with long-term illnesses? There are deep ethical questions to be explored here.

Already the NHS is prioritising Covid-19 cases over other pre-existing conditions and suspending or postponing surgery, presumably on the principle that people who could be saved and restored to health should take precedence over those who might not recover. There has been no debate on this unofficial triage but the waiting times for ‘non-urgent surgery’ have now probably gone past the point where the backlog can ever be recovered, and many cancer patients and others who are seriously ill are dying while they wait indefinitely for their treatments and procedures. What factors are informing the opinions of those taking these decisions? Are they clinicians, or administrators, or politicians? Should those consequential deaths be added to the Covid-19 death statistics in order to show the full picture?

The NHS deals with this all the time in a sense through its normal waiting lists. So it seems do GPs and consultants who give long waits for appointments unless you have persistence. When supply of a service cannot match demand it is hard to see a fair way of dealing with it. Each of us will probably think we should be a priority – I don’t want to die if it can be prevented.

The ability to prolong life has increased continually. Logically that is a bad thing – it is costly in, say, pension and other benefits, it places extra demands on the planet’s resources such as food and water, and it places a huge load on health and social care services that could be used to maintain health in the younger members. But I am not arguing for one minute that we should deal with this logically or disadvantage the older members. We need to provide the resources to back up the advances we have made No one should have any right to decide whether or not someone should be deliberately caused to die through a refusal to help except in very extreme circumstances.

Has anyone data on the use of the Nightingale “emergency hospitals”. Why is it that the Corvid-cases are still delivered to the normal hospitals, and block any other clinical proceedings?

No one seems to consider the environmental costs of trading with countries on the other side of the world to the UK. Transporting goods over long distances by air and sea has to stop so that the immense, climate-changing emissions from such transport also stops. It makes sense therefore to trade with the countries closest to us ie. Europe and why we should never have left the EU – biggest mistake of our time! But we also need to reduce our reliance on all goods we import and export and become more self sufficient in what we actually need to survive which is very basic – healthy food, warm homes, clean water – which can all be provided in sustainable ways. Consumerism at current levels has to end because it is simply not sustainable; we do not have finite resources. If we want to survive, and avoid further pandemics like Covid 19, we have to stop disregarding and interfering with natural systems. That means no more cheap meat, soya, palm oil etc from intensive and destructive production practices and full support for sustainable, biodiverse, small-scale farming and food production. All this is feasible with the willpower and backing from government. We simply cannot carry on as usual, that is the message of Covid, to warn us and wake us up to all the harm we are doing, change our practices and habits, live much more simply and create a much more beautiful world!
So the basic assumptions about who we trade with and why need to be totally reviewed!

If we want to be self sufficient in oranges in the UK then we’ll need to increase the average temperatures in the UK by a few degrees more.
The same goes for electricity, gas and oil.
Suits me I dislike the cold.

Has anyone ever tried to calculate the Carbon ‘foot’-print of the old tea-clippers? The slow transport , which is now possible still by ships, or the ever increasing rail-network. Which/Who’s ‘whim’ is responsible for “I have to have it by tomorrow?” If fruits do not keep on a slow transport, then their “climat-digestibility’ indicates, they should not leave the area of growth.

paul Haskell-Cooper says:
13 November 2020

Protecting standards must surely be the equal to protecting the environment, both are surely interlkinked and interdependent. Any new trade deal must also have regard for home production of food.Sadly,over recent years,the U.K.s ability to feed itself has decreased,to my mind, to worying levels.Proper nutrition is the bedrock of good health,with clean air and uncontaminated water. Those that ignore these basics will sufer the consequences.The unacknowledged contribution of pollution to world health problems is criminaly ignored by our government whilst they throw billions of taxpayers £s at magic bullet vaccine producers.

Food and goods standards that it would be illegal to produce here must not be allowed in. We must not put our producers at risk just to get a cheap price regardless of effect on people, animals and the environment. Standards of goods from some EU countries were bad enough, but we had no choice. We cannot allow sub standards to affect our country. Only by sticking to our standards can we hope to improve standards worldwide. We should also ban ritual killing of animals in the UK.

Is it not strange, that the use of pesticides on non living food-items , has hardly been mentioned.
Yet they are the most long-term damaging items. Remember the report of national Newspapers, that about 30 years after banning DTT it has been found in persons born 20 years after the ban. That the nico*-typ stuff is “ENDOCRIN DISRUPTOR”. HOW OTHERWISE we have now children with broken Chromosomes??? Which happens during the VERY FIRST cell-divison of a fetus!!

Edward Ingalls says:
14 November 2020

You are not allowing people to say they value independence over a trade deal that has us controlled too much by the other part. Yes, we all want good food and a better environment – but not at any cost.

Mrs. Mary E. Mackert says:
14 November 2020

Regaining control of our territorial waters (fishing) which Heath surrendered on joining EU is just as important as retaining our food standars.

Ken Johnson says:
16 November 2020

One aspect of EU influence has not so far been mentioned in the articles I have read here:- workers rights. The Directives protecting the rights of workers to holiday entitlement, sick pay fair pay etc we only introduced into UK Law after bitter opposition by UK Governments, both Labour and Conservative. Along with Environmental legislation these form the basis of the rules for prevention of unfair competition between industries in different countries of the EU. Their retention is of vital importance to all workers in the UK.

Tim Howe says:
18 November 2020

This could be debated for evermore

I simply want to leave the EU as per the democratic vote.

The enviromental debate also seems to be set in politics as well.

Buy a Diesel Car……..oh dear we don’t like Diesel …….. Buy a Petrol Car……..no wrong again; lets waste more raw materials on the next whim !

The next whim is clearly 5G and 6G in therm of materials, BUT no one has mentioned the increase of needed energy to keep those x-more needed transponders running. This at a time, when REDUCTION OF ENERGY CONSUMPTION IS PRIORITY.
It also is strange, that the government is backing the demand of the gambler-of-economy in their greed to have more ^possibilities per second^ to “earn” from fluctuations of the stock market, which are more emotionally triggered, than by real facts.

As a member of the European Community, I am flabbergasted, that not one voice was remembering, “Before Joining the European Commercial Community” the UK did have trade agreements with the European countries. Why not taking them as the basis for negotiations, adjusting them to the now political changed situation. The European countries have and still want sell their bacon, butter cars to the UK, as they would not be able to replace ~40% to 70% of trade.

John Gaze says:
28 February 2021

From all that I have read and heard the trade agreement with the EU is a bum deal. The whole thing was a fudge to get the deal done at the last minute. The EU is good at fudges, viz. allowing Greece to become a member way back when they clearly did not meet the criteria for membership because of their financial position. At the moment the public are being kept in the dark as the Scruteny Committee in parliament was not allowed to start work on the UK/EU deal as Jacob Rees-Mogg was allowed to ‘put the tin hat’ on it. So much for democracy eh.