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Leadsom seeks to reassure pig industry over Brexit concerns

2nd Nov 2016 / By Alistair Driver

Defra Secretary Andrea Leadsom has sought to reassure pig farmers their concerns will be fully taken on board as the UK carves out a new future outside the EU.

leadsom sialDuring a visit to the AHDB Pork stand at the SIAL trade show in Paris, Mrs Leadsom was questioned by leading exporters and industry representatives on two of the big Brexit trade questions.

What guarantees can the Government give that it will successfully re-negotiate free access to the EU Single Market? 

And what steps will the Government take to ensure the UK is not exposed to a flood of cheap, lower standard meat imports?

Afterwards, Mrs Leadsom told Pig World, without providing any firm guarantees, that the Government is listening.

Free trade

She said: “It is certainly our intention to make sure that UK companies will be able to trade as freely as before with their EU counterparts.

“As things stand, we are looking at all the negotiating positions. It is perfectly true to say, economically, it will be in all of our interests to continue with zero or low tariffs and we are working very hard to make the best possible deal we can for the UK.”

She used her visit to the Paris trade show to launch a new drive to promote British food exports and ram home the message the UK intends to be ‘a positive and powerful force for free trade in the rest of the world’.

But she insisted this did not mean free trade at any cost. “Negotiating more free trade will be a priority for us,” she said. “Every opportunity that presents itself, we want to seize. We want to see much more Great British food being exported.”

But Ministers were ‘absolutely aware’ of the potential threat to the pig industry posed by cheaper, low tariff, lower-welfare imports, Mrs Leadsom added.

Centre of discussions

“I can assure all your readers food and farming will be at the centre of all of these discussions and negotiations. Some people have said it will be given away in return for something else but that is absolutely not the case.

“The food and farming sectors contribute £108 billion a year to the economy and it employs one in eight of us. It is incredibly important and will be at the forefront of everything as we negotiate to leave the EU and negotiate free trade elsewhere,” she said.

“I absolutely value our high animal welfare, food and traceability standards and I will be very careful to ensure we don’t water that down in any way.”