The NFU has expressed its disappointment that MPs rejected an opportunity for Parliament to ratify future trade deals which will affect the farming industry.
The amendment (New Clause Four), tabled by Conservative MP Jonathan Djanogly, said trade deals brokered by the UK Government must receive Parliamentary approval, but was rejected by MPs 326 votes to 263 as the Trade Bill cleared the House of Commons.
The news comes after Liz Truss, the International Trade Secretary, announced a new Trade and Agriculture Commission to scrutinise future trade deals last month, in response to industry pressure over sub-standard food imports undercutting British farmers.
NFU director of EU exit and international trade Nick Von Westenholz said: “If we are to ensure British farming is not undermined by food imports produced to lower standards, it is imperative that Parliament has the ability to properly scrutinise and vote on future trade deals before they are signed.”
Mr Von Westenholz added current parliamentary scrutiny was fundamentally constrained by the ‘inadequate’ terms set out under the Constitutional Reform Governance Act (CRAG), which does not allow MPs to scrutinise the Government’s negotiating objectives or final draft agreement before ratification.
During the Trade Bill’s passage through the Commons, MPs also voted down an amendment which would have prevented low standard imports of agricultural goods from entering the UK by a majority of 86 - similar to the one proposed for the Agriculture Bill by Efra committee chairman Neil Parish.
However, Mr Von Westenholz reinforced there was still an ‘opportunity’ for Parliament to rethink the Trade Bill, which is set to enter the House of Lords after the summer recess.
“In the meantime, we will continue to work throughout the Trade and Agriculture Commission to address how best to safeguard our high standards of protection,” he said.