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Batters calls for Brexit food standards commission

19th Feb 2019 / By Alistair Driver

NFU president Minette Batters is calling for the establishment of a new commission of food and farming experts to help ensure Government upholds the high standards of British food production post-Brexit.

BattersOpening the two-day NFU conference in Birmingham today, Mrs Batters will set out her vision for the new commission that it would make clear recommendations on the UK’s future food trade policy. This would include how to ensure food imports meet the same high standards as those British farmers adhere to and how future trade deals ought to be scrutinised by Parliament and industry.

Crucially, there must be a commitment that Government will be required to act on these recommendations.

Such a move would be warmly welcomed within the pig sector, as producers would be vulnerable to imports of cheap, low tariff pork products produced to lower standards than permitted here under post-Brexit trading arrangements. 

One year after being elected as the first female President of the NFU, Mrs Batters will reiterate the strategic importance of British food and farming for the nation’s food security, environment and health and wellbeing.

She will say: “I committed last February that I would do my utmost to champion British food and British farming. My mission has been to ensure that the country understands the importance of this strategically vital industry for our health and wellbeing, for our environment and for our food security. 

“The scale of the challenge is enormous. Around 200 million meals are eaten every day in Britain. And the population is growing. We are proud to produce much of that food. We are proud of our standards. We are proud that British people have access to affordable and quality British food regardless of their income. 

“I have asked the Secretary of State to commit to ensuring that any future new trade agreements will not undermine British food standards. Put simply, a commitment that after Brexit the food Britain imports will be produced to the same standards which is legally required of British farmers.

“And when I say standards, I mean all of the high standards British farmers observe – often at considerable expense – in protecting the environment, safeguarding animal welfare and providing safe food.

“Mr Gove has said that over his dead body would British standards be undermined. I don’t want it written in blood. I want it written in ink.

“The issue of maintaining our food standards is critical. Which is why I am asking for a high-level commission to be convened, bringing together government officials, industry representatives, civil society groups and experts in food and farming.

She said this commission needs to be charged with producing a report before the end of the year. It would need to make recommendations on how future trade deals should be scrutinised at a high level by Parliament and industry, and the Government would need to act on those recommendations, Mrs Batterds said.

"Warm words are nice but we need firm commitments and clear actions,” she said.