The Internal Market Bill will force all four UK nations to submit to the lowest common denominator when it comes to standards, selling farmers down the river, says Liberal Democrat agriculture spokesperson Tim Farron.
A lot has been written about the Government’s controversial Internal Market Bill.
We know that the Bill threatens to break the law, but it also threatens the Union and British farmers.
By forcing all four nations to submit to whatever standards they decide on in a guise in unity, all we are doing is enforcing the lowest common denominator, allowing the UK Government to undermine Scottish farmers and allowing the Scottish Government to undermine English farmers by reducing standards.
We will not be levelling up; we will be forcibly levelling down.
Here in Cumbria, we do not have a more important internal market than our relationship with south-west Scotland.
It is a porous border, not even recognised by many: people work on one side of the border and live on the other; they go to school on one side and visit their GP on the other.
Sheep reared in Cumbria are sold in Scotland. Cattle reared in Scotland are sold in Cumbria.
Farmers dependent on common standards on both sides are about to see those standards undermined.
Our farmers, across all nations, are to be sold down the river.
To many, this might feel academic, perhaps to the genius spin doctors in Whitehall who play with our country as though it is some kind of great board game, some game of Risk; it is academic for them, funny for them, a game for them, but it is not for us in Cumbria – not for our farmers.
The Government seem not to care one bit about the cross-border single market of Cumbria and Dumfriesshire, for example.
We need all the nations around the table and robust regulation of market and trading decisions, so that my farmers in Cumbria are not undercut by Government regulations – and then really until they are none the wiser and it is too late.
We have the best standards of animal welfare, environmental control, and food safety in the world.
I do not want there to be an in-built race to the bottom within the nations of the United Kingdom that undermine that correct reputation.
Tim can be found tweeting @timfarron