We must uphold Britain’s high animal welfare, food and environmental standards in all future trade deals. I share the concern that without the necessary legal guarantees in place, our British farmers risk being undercut by food imports produced to lower animal welfare, environmental and food safety standards than those required in the UK.
The UK Government must listen and engage with the NFU about their proposal for a trade, food and farming standards commission. This is a useful and constructive contribution which deserves to be taken seriously. More fundamentally, the UK Government must put into law a requirement for imported food to meet the UK’s high environmental and animal welfare standards.
We cannot allow our farmers to go out of business because they are being undercut by cheap, low-quality imports that would be illegal if they were grown or produced in the UK. I voted for an amendment to the Agriculture Bill in the House of Commons that would have required food imports meet standards at least as high as those required under UK law. Unfortunately, it was voted down by the Tory Government, despite widespread support from farming and environmental groups and with the public.
The Conservative Government made a manifesto commitment that in all trade negotiations, it will not compromise the UK’s high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards. Yet, recent reports have stated that it is seeking to allow food produced to lower standards into the UK in a US trade deal through a ‘dual tariff’ regime.
I find this very worrying, and I can assure you I will continue to stand alongside our farmers in seeking to secure a commitment in UK law that prevents them from being undercut. We cannot trade away our British values in pursuit of a trade deal.
The Agriculture Bill is currently being scrutinised in the House of Lords, where my colleagues are seeking to strengthen the Bill. I will support efforts to enshrine a commitment in law on British standards in the Trade Bill, which is being considered in the House of Commons.