I fully recognise the importance the public attach to the UK’s high standards of food production, and the unique selling point it provides for our farmers, whose high-quality produce is in demand around the world.
I know that in trade negotiations the Government will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards, which is why I believe Amendment 93 made to the Agriculture Bill in the House of Lords to be an unnecessary potential source of duplication and confusion. I would also like to assure you that the Government will not compromise on matters relating to the health and wellbeing of our children during trade negotiations.
Without exception, all animal products imported into the UK under existing or future free trade agreements from all trading partners, including the EU and others, will have to meet our stringent food safety standards, as they do now. These standards have been built up over many years and have the trust of the public and the world. I know the Government will not adjust those standards to secure trade deals. The standards will be based on science and decided by the UK alone.
I want to see a vibrant and resilient farming sector in the UK, and the UK’s newfound status as an independent trading nation has the potential to bring huge benefits to our farming industry, including our family-run farms. Indeed, new free trade agreements could lead to gains for UK agriculture. For example, analysis by the Department for International Trade shows that an agreement with the US would strengthen UK farmers’ incomes.
I am pleased that the Government is engaging with the agricultural sector, including the National Farmers Union, as part of its trade discussions. The government has established the Trade and Agriculture Commission as well as trade advisory groups, ensuring that British farmers, businesses, and consumers will play a central role in the nation’s trade policy. It is encouraging that Ministers share my determination to ensure our future trade agreements will deliver benefits for our brilliant farmers and food producers.
Regarding amendments made to the Agriculture Bill in the House of Lords relating to the composition and status of the Trade and Agriculture Commission, I know my ministerial colleagues are always considering how best to strengthen the machinery of government to ensure effective decision-making and scrutiny and I will continue to have discussions with them on these matters.
I hope this response has provided some clarity and reassurance.