A coalition of farming, environmental, animal welfare and public health organisations has called for the Government to enshrine its commitment to protect post-Brexit UK farm standards in law.
The letter, sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to coincide with the passing of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, is signed by NFU president Minette Batters, with more than 60 co-signatories, including NPA chairman Richard Lister.
You can view the full letter, which was mobilised by the NFU, here
The organisations say they share and support the Government’s stated commitment to ‘ensuring the environmental, animal welfare and safety standards of UK food production are not undermined after we leave the EU and develop our own independent trade policy’.
The letter stresses that Brexit provides an opportunity to ‘foster a sustainable, carbon neutral model of farming in the UK building on our reputation for high quality, safe and affordable food’. But this will not be achieved ‘without the right domestic policy, supported by a progressive and ambitious trade policy’.
The letter adds: “You have pledged ‘not to in any way prejudice or jeopardise our standards of animal welfare or food hygiene’, and the Secretary of State for Defra recently promised to ‘defend our national interests and our values, including our high standards of animal welfare’.
“Along with your party’s manifesto commitment that, ‘in all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards’, we are increasingly reassured that you are as committed as us to making the UK a world leader in food, farming and environmental standards.
“However, we also recognise that this is a complex issue that goes beyond just the negotiating position of the UK government in any potential trade deals, and that there will be intense pressure on British negotiators to make significant concessions on this issue.
“Furthermore, as an independent member of the WTO the UK will also need to consider how it manages its trading relationships outside the terms of bilateral trade deals. It is vital that we have more than just verbal assurances to ensure our standards are properly safeguarded.”
The letter goes onto call for specific actions to ensure the UK government achieves its commitment to safeguard the standards of UK production:
- The government should enshrine its manifesto commitment in law. The Agriculture Bill provides a good opportunity to do so for some key standards.
- The establishment, as committed to by Defra Michael Gove of a trade and standards commission. This would bring together a wide variety of stakeholders to engage on the UK’s trade policy and how it affects our standards.
- Brexit means the UK can show leadership in pioneering a new type of global trading system – one that moves away from the narrow and dated focus on ever cheaper goods, regardless of how they are produced, to one that rises to the challenges of climate change and promotes more sustainable models of production and consumption across the world.
With the UK’s formal departure from the EU just days away, the coalition stresses that these measures must be pursued as a priority.
“We believe that with the right policy framework and the establishment of a clear understanding of our shared vision for the future, Brexit can be a catalyst for UK farming not just to be the envy of the world, but to provide gold-standard model for high standard, high quality, sustainable food production,” the letter concludes.