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The interests of farmers and consumers must be front and centre in our new trade policy

If the UK is ambitious about its future, the interests of farmers and consumers must be front and centre in any new trade policy, says Conservative peer Anne McIntosh.

As Parliament returns from the summer recess, the clear focus is on completing the Brexit process.

 

In the Lords, we are considering three key aspects: the Agriculture Bill, the Immigration and Social Security Coordination Bill and the Trade Bill.

 

Each of these Bills will impact on farming, and crucially on creating fair competition.

 

In the fifty years since Britain joined the EU, the level playing field has been of critical importance.

 

In the event of no deal being agreed with the EU by December 31, the ability for our farmers to compete fairly in our future trade relations with their competitors, not just in the EU but also in the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada takes on extra significance.

 

Central to the Agriculture and Trade Bills is the role and remit the new Trade and Agriculture Commission will have.

 

Vital

 

It is vital the commission be permanent and independent, has real powers which are enshrined in law and offers advice which is binding on the Government.

 

By amending the Bill, we seek to achieve that and ensure the commission sets out criteria which must be met in negotiating a trade deal.

 

The commission would submit recommendations to the International Trade Secretary who will share these and her response with Parliament where both can be properly scrutinised.

 

Views coalescing around protecting high standards were fortified by the interim conclusions of the report by Henry Dimbleby on a food strategy.

 

As regards standards, there are two sides to the same coin.

 

High standards

 

The first is maintaining our high standards of production at home in terms of animal welfare, protection of the environment, food safety, hygiene and traceability, as well as plant health.

 

The Government has stated its commitment to these aims, which is welcome.

 

The other side of this coin is to maintain these high standards on agricultural goods which may be imported under a trade agreement between the UK and any other country, preventing any products being imported which are produced to lower standards than our domestic farm goods.

 

The commission’s role is paramount in achieving this objective, and there are two opportunities to achieve this in Parliament, through the passage of the Agriculture Bill and the Trade Bill.

 

Pivotal

 

The next two months will be pivotal for our future as an independent trading nation.

 

After almost fifty years of being part of a wider economic block where trade deals were negotiated on our behalf, we are now going to be concluding our own trade deals from a standing start.

 

Agriculture and trade policy will be key to determining our prosperity and independence.

 

If we are ambitious about our future, we must put the interests of our farmers and consumers front and centre.

 

Both are adamant that we need high standards, fair competition and a level playing field, and the Government must deliver this.

 

Anne can be found tweeting at @AnneCMcIntosh

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