Farmers welcome Lords vote to protect post-Brexit food standards
PUBLISHED: 07:10 25 September 2020 | UPDATED: 08:19 25 September 2020
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Farming leaders in East Anglia have welcomed a vote by the House of Lords aiming to increase parliamentary scrutiny of how post-Brexit trade deals will affect UK food producers.
Peers voted in favour of an amendment to the Agriculture Bill, tabled by Lord Curry, which would strengthen the role of the newly-created Trade and Agriculture Commission.
If the amendment goes on to be approved by MPs in the House of Commons next month, the bill would empower the commission to provide Parliament with independent advice about the impact every future trade deal will have on British food and farming standards, before it decides whether to accept or reject those agreements.
Farmers are concerned that post-Brexit trade deals could leave farmers exposed to unfair competition from cheap, low-quality food imports produced to lower standards than are required in this country.
In May, the House of Commons voted against an amendment which would have guaranteed that the UK’s high environmental, animal welfare and food safety requirements would have to be met by any imported produce entering the country under post-Brexit trade deals.
In response, more than a million people signed an online petition urging the government to protect UK food standards. At the end of June, international trade secretary and South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss announced the establishment of an advisory trade and agriculture commission which can make recommendations to the government on free trade agreements to ensure British farmers are not undermined.
But the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said the added powers in the Lords amendment would be vital in ensuring “proper parliamentary oversight of our future trade policy”.
NFU East Anglia regional director Gary Ford said: “This is welcome news for Norfolk and Suffolk farmers – and the one million-plus people who signed our petition on protecting the UK’s food and farming standards.
“The amendment means that Parliament would receive independent advice about the impact every trade deal will have on those standards.
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“We believe the role of the Trade and Agriculture Commission is crucial to providing proper parliamentary oversight of our future trade policy and it is encouraging to see peers support this view.
“However, it is MPs who will have the final say when the Agriculture Bill returns to the House of Commons next month.
“Back British Farming Day on September 9 was well supported by local MPs. We hope they will continue to show strong support for agriculture and horticulture when they vote on this bill.”
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