NFU wants reassurance on post-Brexit trade deals
The NFU has urged the Government to commit to introducing a food standards commission that scrutinises future trade deals post-Brexit.
Malcolm Roberts, NFU regional board chairman and an Oswestry farmer, said the primary purpose of the new commission needs to be the ability to scrutinise proposals in trade deals and make recommendations on the UK’s future food trade policy to ensure that the UK farming’s high production standards won’t be undermined.
He said: “We must once again recognise that there is nothing more important to our economy, our health and our environment than the very food we eat.
"British farmers are world-leading in our standards of animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety. Farmers and the public want it to stay that way, which is why it is crucial that the Government introduces a food standards commission that can scrutinise future trade deals and ensure we do not allow imports of food that would be illegal for our farmers to produce here.
“This needs to be backed in legislation by the Agriculture Bill – which will be so significant for our industry."
It comes as Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers has sought to reassure farmers that high food standards will be protected as the UK seeks trade deals after Brexit.
Concerns have been raised that food produced to lower environmental and welfare standards than are permitted in the UK will be allowed into the country in future trade deals – undercutting the domestic agricultural sector.
But Ms Villiers told the Oxford Farming Conference: "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."
She said the UK could maintain and enhance its standards amid future negotiations with the EU and other countries.
And she promised to work with the farming sector to understand their concerns and make sure their voice is heard in international talks.
"Please be reassured, hear this, is as our manifesto says, as the Prime Minister has said, we will not imperil our domestic and international reputation built on quality, and grounded in our shared national values.
"We will not dilute our strong environmental protection, we will not dilute our high standards of food safety and animal welfare.
"In our forthcoming negotiations the Government will defend our national interest strongly and will be prepared to walk away from negotiations if that's in our national interest."
The Environment Secretary also set out plans in the Agriculture Bill for a switch away from subsidies mostly paid for the amount of land farmed to paying for "public goods" such as boosting nature and tackling climate change.