Michael Gove emphasised the need to protect the standards which ’underpinned’ British agriculture at an NFU event in the House of Commons
Remaining a member of the European Union was no guarantee standards would be protected as the EU was expected to ratify an agreement with the Mercosur trade bloc.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove emphasised the importance of the standards which ‘underpinned’ British agriculture at the NFU’s Summer Party at the House of Commons.
NFU Scotland vice-president Charlie Adam asked Mr Gove to confirm no such UK deal would take place which effectively allowed in beef produced to lower standards.
The deal has raised alarms over standards, with Irish farmers particularly concerned about the impact on their beef industry.
“One of the things that case does demonstrate is that EU membership is not necessarily a guarantee of standards being protected,” Mr Gove said, adding it was critically important the UK beef sector had appropriate protection.
He also said the Government could not take an approach which tried to offshore the country’s animal welfare and environmental responsibilities.
He added it was also critical to make sure farmers were able to invest time and energy into looking after the environment.
“If we erode the business position on which they stand, then we undermine so many of the things which we hold dear.”
Post-Brexit, Mr Gove said he wanted the UK to push forward the boundaries of scientific innovation, as the EU had been ‘needlessly’ conservative in some areas.
“And I think that the future for example of gene editing will allow us to increase productivity, but also to leave the environment in a better state than we found it.”
NFU President Minette Batters called for a delay in the agricultural transition until there was more certainty for the sector.
Mr Gove said the time passing since the Agriculture Bill was drafted could not be ignored and he was talking to the NFU and others about how Government could ensure it had ‘all the benefits’ of transition without giving farmers uncertainty.
Mr Gove also said if he remained in post under a new Prime Minister, he would be making the case spending on the rural economy needed to be a priority.
He added making sure Defra was in a position to better support food, farming and the environment was the best way for a new Prime Minister and Chancellor to show they appreciated ‘what makes this country great’.