Government U-turns on farm trade watchdog

A government watchdog to give farmers a stronger voice on food standards and UK trade policy is to be placed on a full statutory footing.

It follows a campaign by industry leaders who say UK farmers would be undermined if post-Brexit trade deals result in substandard food imports.

But some campaigners and groups say the move does not go far enough.

Farm leaders have fought a long-running battle against food imports produced using production methods that would be illegal in the UK.

They argue that cheap, substandard imports would undermine farmers’ livelihoods – as well as being bad for consumers, the environment and animal welfare.

Under scrutiny

Now the government has announced that its Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC), set up this summer to scrutinise trade deals, will be placed “on a full statutory footing”.

The government has previously said the commission would only be advisory and on a temporary basis.

The decision was announced by Defra secretary George Eustice and International Trade Secretary Liz Truss in an article for the Mail on Sunday (1 November).

Mr Eustice has tabled an amendment to the Agriculture Bill – which will be debated this week – to bolster parliamentary scrutiny of free trade agreements.

It will place a duty on the government to report to parliament on the impact of trade agreements on the maintenance of food, welfare and environmental standards.

Repeated pledge

Mr Eustice and Ms Truss have also repeated their pledge that promoting and supporting the interests of UK farmers will be a priority in every trade deal.

“Crucially, too, our food, animal welfare and environmental standards will not be undermined,” they add.

Source: Farmers Weekly