Safety experts have urged the government to exclude US car imports from any post-Brexit trade deal with Donald Trump, warning that they have lower safety standards.
The Parliamentary Advisory Council on Transport Safety says imported vehicles should still have to meet British standards for collisions with pedestrians, children, and people on bikes – which many US vehicles do not.
The Council has written to Trade Secretary Liz Truss warning that US safety standards “are much lower than those permitted for vehicles sold in the UK”.
The warning mirrors a row over US food imports and whether food produced to lower US animal welfare and safety standards could be allowed into British supermarkets under a free trade agreement.
“We note that in negotiations covering food safety the USA has argued against accepting higher UK standards. It has sought to characterise these as protectionism,” the Council said in a letter to Ms Truss first reported by the BBC.
“We are concerned that pressure for lower safety standards will be applied in negotiations regarding the automotive sector.
“US vehicle safety standards are much lower than those permitted for vehicles sold in the UK.”
A 2018 report by the World Health Organisation which reviewed laws and crashes in 175 nations found that the US’s traffic fatality rate was 12.4 deaths per 100,000 — around 50 per cent higher than comparable countries in western Europe, Canada, Australia and Japan.
The same report also said the US lagged behind Europe, including the UK, on implementing UN vehicle safety standards.
The head of the UK Transport Research Laboratory, Richard Cuerden, told the BBC: “We know the prime minister and others have said the automotive sector is on the cards for a new trade deal after Brexit. Well, it’s fine to trade – but they have to meet our rules in this regard.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Road safety or environmental standards will not be diminished as part of a free trade agreement with the USA or any other country.”
Sam Lowe, a trade policy expert and senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, told The Independent he would expect a US trade deal to lift tariffs on American cars but that this might not lead to more on the roads.
“The main reason US cars aren’t more popular in the UK and Europe isn’t necessarily tariffs or the need to meet more stringent standards, it’s that British consumers don’t like them very much,” he said.
“I would expect any trade agreement between the US and UK to remove tariffs on cars, but I wouldn’t expect that to lead to loads more American cars on the roads in Britain.”
Negotiations between the US and UK with a view to signing a free trade deal started at the beginning of May.