With the Tory leadership race in full swing, it’s time for all the candidates to outline their plans for food and farming post-Brexit, says Labour’s Shadow Defra Secretary Sue Hayman.
This week, Members of Parliament have returned to Westminster following the Whitsun recess amidst a Conservative Party leadership contest and a state visit from Donald Trump.
Within a matter of weeks, and with only four months to go until the latest Brexit deadline, Britain will have a new Prime Minister in place.
A lot is at stake for the future of the UK’s agricultural sector, rural communities, and our natural environment.
As the multitude of Tory leadership candidates scramble for support from their parliamentary colleagues, it’s vital they set out their stall when it comes to the Defra brief.
Britain’s farmers and food producers need concrete solutions, not sound bites, to secure a long-term future for their businesses.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, and Defra Secretary Michael Gove, have both repeatedly assured us that our domestic production standards will not be lowered under any future trade agreement, but the major concern of our agricultural sector is goods produced to lower standards will be allowed into the UK.
Liam Fox was in the audience at the press conference with Donald Trump this week, when he reiterated that ‘nothing is off the table’ when it comes to a post-Brexit trade deal.
While the headlines will rightly focus on what this could mean for the future of our NHS, we must not forget a number of candidates standing to be the next Prime Minister are incredibly relaxed about the prospect of Britain’s high standards of food production being undermined by cheap imports.
It’s time for the candidates to get real – the no-deal Brexit so many of them are enthusiastically championing would be nothing short of a disaster for the UK food sector.
We have to leave the EU with a deal in place which protects jobs, businesses, workers, and our precious natural environment.
There is no majority in Parliament for no deal, and members from across the House will come together to deliver that message very clearly to whoever emerges as the new Tory leader.
A month ago, Parliament made international history when it passed Labour’s motion declaring a climate and environment emergency.
To press ahead with no deal would be to carry on with business as usual at a time when we need to work flat out to safeguard our planet for future generations.
The leadership hustings and campaign events are about to get underway, and with three of the candidates having served as ministers in Defra, it’s crucial we hear what they all have to say about their vision for post-Brexit farming and trade.
As a member of Labour’s Brexit negotiating team, it is disappointing that talks broke down, but unfortunately we simply weren’t seeing enough progress from the Government when it came to things like environmental standards.
The draft Environment Bill isn’t good enough.
Labour has been clear in its demands for a Brexit deal, including a customs union and single market alignment, and for British standards to keep pace with evolving EU standards on the environment.
If the next Conservative Prime Minister seriously wants to pass a Brexit deal – and they should – then it is time for them to drop their red lines and come back to us with a deal which will deliver frictionless trade, protect UK food producers, enhance vital standards, and safeguard Britain’s environment.
Sue can be found tweeting at @SueHayman1