Agriculture Bill

12th October 2020

I am supporting the Lords Amendments to enshrine Food Safety and Farm Animal Welfare standards in the Agriculture Bill today for a number of reasons: 

1.     We promised in our Manifesto and the election campaign that we would enshrine and protect existing UK Farm and Food standards. 

2.     It is not a fair trade to require UK farmers to grow food to minimum standards that we don’t require of imports. The hardline “Free Trade” lobby says that is ‘protectionist’ as if that is somehow ‘wrong’.  I’m opposed to using Government money to subsidise or “protect” failing businesses – but that is very different from ensuring fair trade for UK farmers.   

3.     Whilst we have adopted all our existing EU rules into UK law, they can currently be negotiated away by Ministers without a vote in Parliament. 

4.     The WTO Rules, on which we will be relying after Jan 1st, specifically prohibit animal welfare as a reason for trade restrictions. The WTO only allows risks to human health and safety as a reason for restricting trade. Scientific opinion on the data on that is not overwhelming. So to enforce UK standards we need our own legal protections. 

5.     Without legal statutory protection of our basic standards, our undertaking to protect UK standards will be worthless: cheaper food produced to standards we don’t accept will flood in and UK farmers will go out of business. 

6.     Fair Trade:  I have long campaigned for us to use our trade to help promote good growth around the world: we need to help developing countries use less pesticide, plastic, carbon and other damaging environmental and unacceptable labour methods (like child labour).  I want us to use our new freedom to shape our own Trade and Agriculture policies outside the EU to use our trade leverage to promote good practice. 

We should be using our trade leverage to develop our soft power and influence through a series of “banded tariffs” rewarding the production methods we want to see.  For example on food like coffee & fruit from Africa:

- We should remove the appalling 40% tariff the EU places on food imports

- Set out basic safety and welfare standards we insist food complies with

- Offer [10]% tariffs on food that complies with basic standards and reserve Tariff Free trade as a reward for production to the higher standards we want to promote 

(This is linked to what I have long campaigned for: the UK as a global exporter of the modern methods of clean green smart production we want to encourage - and which we can support with our innovation.)

7.     If we get this right we can show that we are delivering on our promise to make Brexit a moment for the UK to support our high standards and fly the flag for improved standards around the world.  

To hear my views in full, please watch the video below.

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