A cross-party group of almost 20 MEPs has written to Trade Secretary Liam Fox to press for protections for British farmers as the UK negotiates a new relationship with the EU.
The MEPs, who represent agricultural regions of the UK or sit on the EU’s agriculture committee, called on Dr Fox to provide reassurance to farmers about post-Brexit trade relationships with countries the EU already has deals with, standards and geographical protections for food products.
The letter, seen by Farmers Guardian, read: “At present, agricultural produce and food exported outside the EU is covered by agreements between the EU and a series of third countries.
“Please could you let us know what progress has been made to ensure the farmers we represent will still be able to use the same framework during the transition period?
“Specifically, which countries have agreed to continue to recognise UK exports as being of EU origin during the transition period for the purposes of their existing agreements with the EU?
“If there is no such guarantee, can you advise us about what framework you will put in place in the next eleven months to replace these trade agreements?”
The MEPs also asked for confirmation that third countries would continue to recognise UK products as meeting EU standards during any transition period, and what progress had been made in finding a replacement for EU geographical indicators, warning any failure to do so would lead to a ‘rush of lower-quality competition’.
Molly Scott Cato, Brexit spokesperson for the Green Party and a co-signatory to the letter, said: “It is time for Liam Fox to compost his ‘easiest trade deal in human history’ rhetoric and face up to the difficult and unresolved questions about what framework will govern the export of agricultural and food products during the transition period and beyond.
“As MEPs from across the political spectrum, representing farmers and food exporters, we are deeply concerned that underestimating the difficulty of this process will impact negatively on rural communities and British trade.”