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MPs urged to safeguard British farmers as Trade Bill enters Commons

20th May 2020 / By Alistair Driver

MPs are being urged to back a trade policy that safeguards British farmers and food production, as the Trade Bill begins its passage in the House of Commons today.

BattersLast week, MPs rejected an amendment to the Agriculture Bill, backed by the farming industry, environmental and animal welfare NGOs, that would ensure food imports in any future trade deals meet the same high production standards that are legally required of UK farmers. While the Bill now heads to the House of Lords unamended, some MPs suggested the issue could be addressed in the Trade Bill this week. 

While, realistically it is a long shot to expect an amendment of this to be added to the Trade Bill, NFU president Minette Batters has urged MPs to consider the impact of the UK's future trading relations on UK food production. 

In sentiments backed by the NPA, Mrs Batters, who has written to all MPs ahead of the debate, said: “As the Trade Bill is debated for the first time in the House of Commons today, I ask MPs to consider one thing – where do they see the UK on the global stage?

“For food and farming, we have the potential to be at the very top. But we need a trade policy that safeguards our farmers and British food production from the damaging impact of importing food that would be illegal to produce here.

“Failure to do this would undermine our values of animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety, all of which are incredibly important to the public.”

The NFU is also continuing to press the importance of a Trade, Food and Farming Standards Commission – a body which would review policy and develop solutions to promote free trade while holding all food imports to the UK’s high food standards.

“I would also like to know why the government has not yet established a trade and standards commission. It would be an eminently sensible approach aimed at addressing the many complex challenges in ensuring our high production standards are safeguarded within our future trade policy.

“So I ask all MPs to speak up for British farming today; ask for a commission that will protect the UK’s food values from sub-standard imports and ask for more parliamentary scrutiny over future trade deals.”

Government response

“The UK is renowned for its high environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards. And we will safeguard our agriculture sector – we’ve just announced a tariff policy which maintains tariffs on key agricultural products such as lamb, beef, and poultry.

“We have been clear that in all of our trade negotiations – including with the US in our first round of negotiations – that we will not undermine our high domestic environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards by ensuring in any agreement British farmers are always able to compete.”