Current environmental, public health standards and existing farmers’ needs must be prioritised in upcoming post-Brexit trade negotiations to prevent ‘the biggest peacetime threat’ to UK food security.
This was the call from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Agroecology for Food and Farming ahead of the Oxford Real Farming Conference this morning to promote agroecology as the answer ‘to many of the concerns facing modern land management’.
The Group warned issues such as food security, environmental protection and welfare standards may be significantly weakened by the UK’s exit from the EU and British farmers could be forced to adopt input-heavy, intensive systems.
It came following its inquiry to determine the areas of practice and legislation most likely to impact producers working to sustainable, agroecological standards.
Group chair Kerry McCarthy for Bristol said: “There are serious concerns that if negotiators do not value farmers enough and build poorly managed trade deals that reflect this – particularly a US-UK deal – it could trigger a race to the bottom in terms of standards and ability of our own farmers to compete.
“The APPG is determined that this sector should not become a bargaining chip or something that can easily be traded.”
Ms McCarthy warned of a ‘botched Brexit trade deal’ and said the most important trade arrangement for the UK to resolve was with the EU.
She called on the Government to work with the DIT and DExEU to ensure issues such as lower welfare imports including chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-filled beef would not undermine British farmers in any new trade deals.
The APPG also warned recent news the DIT was pushing to carry out secret negotiations with the US ‘only serves to underscore publicly held fears’.
“If discussions are not handled by a negotiating team ready to support our agriculture industry in its entirety – not just the largest businesses, or those with capacity to lobby loudest – then the government is severely hampering its own ability to make good on its election manifesto promises to farmers, and will run the very real risk of permanently damaging our leading role in setting and improving food standards for current and future generations,” Ms McCarthy added.