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As the UK’s Trade Bill begins its passage in the House of Commons, the National Farmers’ Union is urging MPs to ask the Government how it will protect Britain’s high environmental and animal welfare standards. The bill, which will be an important part of the UK’s independent trade policy outside the EU, will be a “make or break” moment for British farming, the group said.
Last week, the Agriculture Bill was passed into the House of Lords unamended, despite widespread support from the farming industry, environmental and animal welfare non-governmental organisations and MPs for changes that would ensure imports would meet the same high production standards that are legally required of UK farmers.
NFU President Minette Batters said: “As the Trade Bill is debated for the first time in the House of Commons today, I ask MPs to consider one thing – where do they see the UK on the global stage?
“For food and farming, we have the potential to be at the very top. But we need a trade policy that safeguards our farmers and British food production from the damaging impact of importing food that would be illegal to produce here. Failure to do this would undermine our values of animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety, all of which are incredibly important to the public.
“Our trade policy must reflect our moral responsibilities to the planet and the people and creatures that live on it – protecting our natural environment, caring for our farmed animals, and working toward a more sustainable, climate-friendly way of farming and food production. These are issues that cannot be wished away or presumed dealt with by brief pledges in a manifesto or verbal assurances in media interviews,” Minette said.
The NFU is also calling for the creation of a Trade, Food and Farming Standards Commission, which would review policy and develop solutions to promote free trade while holding all food imports to the UK’s high standards. “It would be an eminently sensible approach aimed at addressing the many complex challenges in ensuring our high production standards are safeguarded within our future trade policy,” Minette said.
“We are at a make or break moment for British farming. We have the chance to become a global leader in climate-friendly farming, and neither farmers nor the public want to see that ambition fall by the wayside because our trade policy does not hold food imports to the same standards as are expected of our own farmers.”
A government spokesperson said, “The UK is renowned for its high environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards. And we will safeguard our agriculture sector – we’ve just announced a tariff policy which maintains tariffs on key agricultural products such as lamb, beef, and poultry.
“We have been clear that in all of our trade negotiations – including with the US in our first round of negotiations – that we will not undermine our high domestic environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards by ensuring in any agreement British farmers are always able to compete.”
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