Ministers have bowed to pressure to enforce high British food standards in post-Brexit deals by beefing up a new commission designed to give farmers ‘a stronger voice in UK trade policy’.
The move, announced by two Cabinet Ministers in an article for The Mail on Sunday, is a significant step forward for this newspaper’s Save Our Farms campaign.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) would now be placed ‘on a full statutory footing’ to scrutinise trade deals
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, said the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC), which was set up in the summer, would now be placed ‘on a full statutory footing’ to scrutinise trade deals.
The major concessions – including a new duty to report to Parliament over the food and environmental impact of trade deals – follow fears that sub- standard US foods such as chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef could undercut quality UK produce.
But the moves also come after repeated warnings from campaigners – including TV chefs Jamie Oliver and Prue Leith – that much more had to be done to strengthen protection for UK farmers in post-Brexit deals.
And it follows rebellions – led in the Commons by senior Tory MP Neil Parish and in the Lords by crossbench peer Lord Curry – over claims that Ministers’ original plans for a temporary food commission were ‘toothless’.
In their article, Ms Truss and Mr Eustice seek to assuage those concerns by claiming that Britain ‘as a nation of animal lovers’ would lead by example in the post-Brexit world.
They reaffirm that ‘chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef are already banned in the UK and we will not negotiate to remove that ban in a trade deal’.
Crucially, they announce that a Government amendment to the Agriculture Bill will bolster ‘parliamentary scrutiny of free trade agreements’ and the commission ‘will be made a statutory body which will give independent advice on trade deals as they go through Parliament’.
More than one million people signed a National Farmers’ Union petition to protect British food standards.
In their article, Ms Truss and Mr Eustice (pictured) seek to assuage those concerns by claiming that Britain ‘as a nation of animal lovers’ would lead by example in the post-Brexit world
And last night, NFU president Minette Batters said the Government compromise would be ‘hugely welcomed by Britain’s farmers’.
Ms Batters, who met Boris Johnson last month over the matter, said it was ‘clear to me how much he personally cares’.
She added: ‘I’m delighted that he has led the Government to draw a line in the sand and commit to the 2019 Conservative manifesto commitment not to undermine our farmers in future trade deals.’
Mr Parish, chairman of the Commons’ Environment Committee, said: ‘I pay tribute to the Government for listening and getting on the front foot, beefing up this commission and showing a real desire to uphold high standards in new trade deals.’