The UK government has announced that it will establish a new Trade and Agriculture Commission to help safeguard food standards in any post-Brexit trade deals.
International trade secretary Liz Truss made the announcement in a letter to the president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Minette Batters, and the commission will reportedly advise ministers and scrutinise the UK’s approach to post-Brexit trade agreements.
The move follows a campaign from several of the UK’s main farming unions, which have lobbied the government to ensure that trade agreements which result in lower food safety and animal welfare standards should be prevented.
Earlier this month, concerns about post-Brexit food safety standards intensified as Prime Minister Boris Johnson implied that a trade deal with the US could allow the import of certain products that are currently banned from sale into the UK, such as chlorine-dipped chicken and hormone-treated beef and pork.
In a letter to NFU president Minette Batters, Truss claimed that the decision to form the commission followed “positive discussions” with four of the UK’s largest farming unions – the NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and Ulster Farmers’ Union.
Truss wrote: “I wholeheartedly agree that any trade deal the UK strikes must be fair and reciprocal to our farmers, and must not compromise on our high standards of food safety and animal welfare.
“I have been very clear on both these points and will continue to fight for the interests of our farming industry in any and all trade arrangements we negotiate.”
NFU president Minette Batters said: “I am very pleased that the government is taking concrete action to address the challenges of safeguarding our high food and farming standards by agreeing to set up a Trade and Agriculture Commission, something we first called for over 18 months ago. This is a hugely important development.
“We look forward to working with government and other stakeholders in the days ahead on the Commission’s terms of reference, to ensure that its work is genuinely valuable. In particular, it will be vital that Parliament is able to properly consider the Commission’s recommendations and can ensure government implements them effectively.
“The NFU will continue to scrutinise the progress of trade negotiations with the USA and other countries over the coming months outside of the work of the Commission so that our future trade deals work for British farmers and consumers, and we believe it is vital that Parliament is provided a strengthened role in this regard as well.”
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