09 September 2020, 09:40 AM
  • The result of the Trade Bill being debated in the House of Lords this week could greatly impact the future of British food and farming, says the NFU
Time is running out to support UK farmers in future trade deals

There’s no doubt that British farming standards are top-notch and only improving further. In honour of Back British Farming Day, a public-facing campaign driving support for the British food and farming sector, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) published a new report on the topic, showcasing how British farmers set themselves apart from the rest of the world. However, these statistics could easily be affected by the result of the Trade Bill being debated in the House of Lords this week.

Currently, there is no requirement in the Trade Bill for Parliament to debate trade deals before they are signed into law, and safeguards that allow MPs to reject such trade deals are limited. “Right now, a trade agreement could be signed with little parliamentary scrutiny,” explains Minette Batters, president of the NFU. “This could result in a massive increase in the amount of food being imported that is produced in ways that would be illegal in this country.”

What’s the solution?

With such a situation in question, the NFU is calling for Peers to amend the Bill so that Parliament will be given the final say on whether or not to ratify new trade agreements. In addition to that, the NFU asks that Parliament be provided with independent advice about the impact every trade deal will have on our food and farming standards before it decides whether to accept or reject those trade deals, so as to make informed decisions that achieve the best possible outcome.

An amendment to the Agriculture Bill, put forward by Lord Curry in the House of Lords, would give this duty to the new Trade and Agriculture Commission, which was set up by the government in July. This amendment is likely to be debated by the House of Lords next week, and the NFU is urging Peers to vote in its favour.

“We are at a pivotal time for the future of farming and the food on our plates,” Batters reiterates. “Our farm to fork approach to traceability, how we look after our animals and our environment, and how we lead the world in reducing antibiotic usage are all the envy of the world and yet they are in jeopardy if they are undermined by future trade deals.

“I would urge all politicians to think about these values, and what we have to lose. I would ask them to set British farming as the global standard in sustainable, climate-friendly food production, and not undermine it in the pursuit of free trade. I would urge Peers in the House of Lords to vote for this amendment next week, to amend the Trade Bill to increase Parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals and take a great step towards providing the proper parliamentary oversight of our future trade policy.”

As the industry awaits the results of this debate, have a look at how you can get involved in the NFU’s Back British Farming Day, and keep up to date with news on the Trade Bill and the latest industry knowledge by subscribing to our newsletter.

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