The president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), Minette Batters, has hit out at the decision to reject the latest round of amendments to the Agriculture Bill, saying that the future of British food and farming is at stake.
On Monday 12th October, MPs voted against a number of amendments to the Bill which aimed to protect British food standards in post-Brexit trade deals. These amendments included giving the new Trade and Agriculture Commission the power to scrutinise any trade deal in parliament.
Commenting on the news, Minette Batters said: “Once again the Commons has debated the Agriculture Bill without any binding commitments on how to safeguard our farmers’ high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection in our trade policy.
“While I was very heartened to hear many MPs express support for safeguarding our food standards, it was particularly disappointing that they were unable to vote on Lord Curry’s amendment that would strengthen the role of the Trade and Agriculture Commission and with it the role of Parliament to have proper scrutiny of new trade deals.”
“The future of British food and farming is at stake. Without proper safeguards on future trade deals we risk seeing an increase in food imports that have been produced to standards that would be illegal here.”
Batters continued: “The future of British food and farming is at stake. Without proper safeguards on future trade deals we risk seeing an increase in food imports that have been produced to standards that would be illegal here. I hope the Agriculture Bill returning to the House of Lords gives a new opportunity for the Lords to put forward an amendment that will give the Commission more teeth and enable MPs to have their say; one that can be heard by the House of Commons, with a final vote to see those safeguards put in place.”
NFU Scotland president, Andrew McCornick, described the result as bitterly disappointing for Scottish farmers and crofters and the public.
McCornick said: “NFU Scotland has consistently argued that new trade agreements are a major opportunity for Scottish agriculture. We pride ourselves on provenance and quality: herein lies the opportunity.
“Farmers, crofters and growers in Scotland must be enabled by the current and future governments to reach a thriving export market in a manner which builds on our existing, world-leading standards of production.”
McCornick continued: “This ambition goes hand-in-glove with the UK Government’s own manifesto commitment not to compromise the UK’s standards of animal welfare and environmental protection. For this reason, NFU Scotland and the vast majority of our members are bitterly disappointed that the amendment was not supported. It is an ambition that has received unprecedented levels of public support and celebrity endorsement, which we welcome.
“I will continue to advocate at every turn to ensure that Scottish and UK standards of production are considered in the negotiation of new and other trade agreements. I firmly believe that is what the public wish to see.”