Liz Truss is facing a new Tory rebellion amid mounting anger that she is failing to protect British farms against low-quality food imports
Liz Truss is facing a new Tory rebellion amid mounting anger that she is failing to protect British farms against low-quality food imports.
The International Trade Secretary is being warned to expect humiliating defeats in Parliament this week over her ‘toothless’ defences against sub-standard foreign food in post-Brexit trade deals.
In a series of House of Lords votes, Tory rebels are poised to join Labour and independent peers to order Ms Truss to beef up her trade deal watchdog – the Trade and Agriculture Commission – and let Parliament protect family farms.
But the defeats would also set up the prospect of further Tory revolts in the Commons when MPs debate the plans in a few weeks.
Last night, Conservative rebels urged Ms Truss to reach a last-minute compromise.
Tory peer Baroness McIntosh of Pickering warned that without it many British farms could ‘go to the wall’.
She added: ‘They are prepared to meet high standards, but we must have a level playing field and not undercut those standards with sub-standard imports.’
She also praised The Mail on Sunday’s Save Our Family Farms campaign.
The Lords votes – on the Government’s Agriculture Bill – come amid fresh fears that ‘lower-standard’ meat such as US-produced chlorinated chicken or hormone-fed beef could be served in British restaurants and work canteens.
In a survey for the sustainable food website Foodprint of 25 firms including fast-food outlets, hotel, pub and coffee shop chains, 12 failed to say whether they would buy such foreign food following trade deals.
The Government points to the 2019 Tory manifesto commitment to uphold food and animal welfare standards in post-Brexit trade talks.
But farm and food campaigners are demanding it meets that pledge by increasing the powers of the temporary Commission set up in July and making it permanent.
In the Lords this week, crossbench peer and retired farmer Lord Curry will insist it is put on a statutory footing and reports on all trade agreements before they are signed.
The move will be supported by senior Tory peer Lord Randall of Uxbridge. Lib Dems are also expected to back the reforms.
Lady McIntosh will call for the Commission to establish criteria for maintaining standards at least as high as UK ones for agricultural goods imported under a trade deal.
The Lords votes – on the Government’s Agriculture Bill – come amid fresh fears that ‘lower-standard’ meat such as US-produced chlorinated chicken or hormone-fed beef could be served in British restaurants and work canteens. A stock image is used above [File photo]
Labour peer and dairy farmer Lord Grantchester said: ‘The Commission is devoid of powers. What’s needed are legal guarantees without which farmers will be forced to compete against lower safety, welfare or environmental standards.’
However, Ms Truss signalled last night that she would not compromise. A source said: ‘Liz recognises the concerns of Lord Curry, but thinks the current scope of the Commission is sufficient. We will never sign a trade deal that undercuts farmers or compromises on our high standards.’