Home » Government bill fails to reassure
Farming News

Government bill fails to reassure

OVER sixty groups, including the NFU, RSPCA and Soil Association, have sent a joint letter to the prime minister calling for UK food standards to be protected after Brexit.

The letter was sent to coincide with the passage of Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which has now had Royal Assent.
The groups agree that Brexit provides an opportunity to foster a sustainable, carbon-neutral model of farming in the UK building on high quality, safe and affordable food.

But they say the government must include its manifesto commitment to protecting animal welfare and food standards when trade negotiations commence.

Speaking to the Oxford Farming Conference earlier this month, DEFRA Secretary Theresa Villiers said: “Our strong British brand is built on high standards to which we hold ourselves.

“The high standards of British farming are the backbone of our biggest manufacturing sector of food and drink.
“We will not dilute our strong environmental protection, we will not dilute our high standards of food safety and animal welfare,” said Ms Villiers.

The UK Government’s ‘commitment’ on those issues appears nowhere in the UK Agriculture Bill proposed by Westminster and it rejected calls to incorporate regulations regarding food safety and standards within it.

A poll of delegates at the same Conference revealed no confidence that the UK Government would stick to its commitments on food safety and animal welfare.

The previous DEFRA Secretary, Michael Gove, promised a trade and standards commission should be created to oversee future trade talks. The UK Government has now ditched the idea altogether, leading to fears the UK Government is willing to sacrifice the UK’s farmers to get a trade deal – any trade deal.

Boris Johnson pledged in the past “not to in any way prejudice or jeopardise our standards of animal welfare or food hygiene”, and the Secretary of State for Defra recently promised to “defend our national interests and our values, including our high standards of animal welfare.”

The Conservative Party’s manifesto also committed that “in all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.”

online casinos UK

But the joint letter states that there will be ‘intense pressure’ on British negotiators to make ‘significant concessions’.

“It is vital that we have more than just verbal assurances to ensure our standards are properly safeguarded,” it says.
“In light of this, we urge you to take some specific actions we believe will enable you to ensure that the UK government can achieve its commitment to safeguarding the standar
ds of UK production, now and in the future.”

The groups add that Brexit means the UK can pioneer a new type of global trading system; one that moves away from the ‘narrow and dated focus on ever-cheaper goods’, to one that rises to the challenges of climate change and promotes sustainable models of production and consumption.

The letter concludes: “With the enactment of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill and our formal departure from the EU just days away, we believe these measures must be pursued as a priority.

“We believe that with the right policy framework and the establishment of a clear understanding of our shared vision for the future, Brexit can be a catalyst for the UK’s farming not just to be the envy of the world, but to provide a gold-standard model for high standard, high quality, sustainable food production.

“We would welcome the chance for a delegation of the signatories to this letter to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss how we can work in partnership to achieve this vision.”

TFA Chief Executive, George Dunn said “We welcome the Government’s stated objectives to ensure we do not undermine our high food safety, environmental and animal welfare standards in our future trading relationships.

“Those commitments will be mere rhetoric without clear legislation to protect standards at our borders. Within the rules of the WTO, we will not get off first base if we can’t point to firm legislation which supports our standards.”

Together with a strong statute, Mr Dunn says the Government must also be smart in how it will use its newfound powers to set tariffs on imports.

“Producing to higher standards at home in comparison to some of the methods of production used abroad, inevitably, leads to higher costs. We must not undermine UK producers by allowing tariff-free or low tariff access to the UK market for food and food ingredients produced to standards which would be illegal domestically.

“While the Government is mindful not to add to costs for consumers, it is also in consumers’ long-term interest to ensure the production systems are operating to good standards. Smart use of our tariff arrangements will be a key part of our armoury,” said Mr Dunn