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Government must ensure our food is fully traceable after Brexit

It is vital that Ministers ensure the food we eat is produced to the highest standards and fully traceable after Brexit, says Conservative peer Anne McIntosh.

One of the greatest challenges facing farmers is how to maintain access to our main existing market of 505 million consumers in the EU.

 

The value of EU exports to the UK of live animals and products of animal origin is huge, valued at £41 billion annually, dwarfing our exports to the EU of £7.6 billion annually.

 

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, we automatically become a third country which would mean we would leave on Most Favoured Nation (MFN) terms under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

 

So we cannot give the EU or any other nation favourable treatment, but must ensure the same offer would apply to all of our trade with every WTO member.

 

Agree

 

A lengthy process would then ensue to agree tariffs, as well as agreeing the quota of products which will be sold free of tariff or at reduced rate tariff, which could take some considerable time.

 

European and British negotiators agreed to split the Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs) which apply to agricultural goods from outside the EU in December 2018, though these may yet be contested by the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

 

The flip side of tariffs is the ability to ensure continuing high standards of animal welfare and hygiene with third countries, the need for which the Government is aware.

 

In March, I am asking the Government in a parliamentary question how they intend to ensure the traceability of our food and establish good food labelling post Brexit.

 

Discussions

 

I am also asking what discussions the Government has had with the EU on remaining part of the European food alert system.

 

Such a system is essential to prevent another case of fraud such as the horsegate scandal in 2013 or worse, a food health scare.

 

The Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) provides early alerts of health or food contamination issues across the EU, about 10 alerts each day, facilitating the earliest management of food and feed safety risks.

 

Whether we continue to follow these alerts remains a matter of negotiation with our EU partners once we leave.

 

In his speech to the annual NFU Conference, Defra Secretary Michael Gove stated in no uncertain terms there is no guarantee UK farmers would be able to continue to trade with the EU in the event no deal is agreed.

 

Aware

 

Farmers are only too aware of the impact of tariffs on their produce under WTO rules, leading to potential EU tariffs of around 70 per cent on beef and 45 per cent on lamb exports from the UK into the EU. So farmers must wish to see a deal agreed to allow frictionless trade post Brexit.

 

Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, has found it has not been that easy to roll over the 40 existing international free trade agreements we currently enjoy through our membership of the EU, before we even begin to discuss a free trade deal between the UK and the EU.

 

The deal being negotiated with the EU by the Prime Minister is to be put to a meaningful vote in the Commons on March 12 and if that is rejected, there will be further votes on Britain leaving without a deal and on extending the Article 50 process.

 

As regards delivering on the deal, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

 

Anne can be found tweeting at @AnneCMcIntosh


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