International secretary Liz Truss has announced a trade and agriculture commission to provide information about a post-Brexit trade policy.
Truss said the new commission was no longer a quango or regulator and was strictly limited in time. In a letter to the President of the NFU, she said: "I suggest that after completing its work, the Commission will prepare a report on its task, which will be presented to Parliament by my department." Truss further emphasized that his recommendations are only advisory would.
"This is a really good place to start to show that the government really means taking British standards and food production seriously."
The report and the Commission's work would focus on four areas:
- Given the policies that the government should introduce in free trade agreements to ensure that British farmers are not exposed to unfair competition and that their high animal welfare and production standards are not undermined
- Taking into account consumer interests and developing countries.
- Considering how Britain has committed the WTO to building a coalition that will help achieve higher animal welfare standards worldwide.
- Development of a trade policy that identifies and opens up new export opportunities for the UK agricultural industry – particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises – and benefits the UK economy as a whole.
NFU President Minette Batters said, "I am delighted that the government is taking concrete measures to address the challenges of maintaining our high food and agricultural standards by agreeing to establish a Trade and Agriculture Commission, which we first asked for over 18 years ago a few months ago. This is an extremely important development.
“We look forward to working with the government and other stakeholders on the tasks of the Commission in the coming days to ensure that their work is really valuable. In particular, it will be crucial that Parliament can take due account of the Commission's recommendations and ensure that the government implements them effectively.
"The NFU will continue to monitor the progress of trade negotiations with the US and other countries outside the work of the Commission in the coming months to make our future trade agreements work for British farmers and consumers, and believes that this is vital for Parliament has also played a greater role in this regard. "
Andrew McCornick, President of NFU Scotland, said: “For all UK unions, creating a commission with the potential to protect our food and agricultural standards while managing the complexity of negotiating new trade agreements has been a priority for more than 18 months. We have discussed this matter privately with the Foreign Minister twice in the past few weeks and welcome today's announcement as an important step forward.
"We look forward to working with the Secretary of State and her officials, along with other stakeholders, on the Commission's mission in the coming days. Its independent composition would be an integral part of ensuring the correct representation and balance of delegated skills in an essentially reserved matter, but with broadly distributed interests, not least for the integrity of the world's leading Scottish brands and PGI products.
“It is important that our production standards come to the fore when the UK concludes its own trade agreements, and our call for products imported into the UK to be manufactured to the same standards or equivalent standards as our farmers and crofters have requested has been confirmed An online petition that has secured over a million signatures.
“The NFU Scotland will contribute positively to the mandate for the Commission. This must be done with great urgency, as our exit from the European Union is just over six months away. Once established, we will review any future Commission recommendations and ensure that they are in the best interest of Scottish farmers and crofters, as well as our food and beverage industry, as we enter the post-Brexit era. "
Phil Stocker, CEO of NSA, commented: “This is a really good place to start to show that the government really means taking UK standards and food production seriously. However, there are still many questions to be answered and commitments to be met. At this point, this could still be just a lip service from the government to industry, so the NSA will continue to require real legislative engagement through the Commerce Act or the Agriculture Act. The NSA has been involved in an amendment to the Commercial Law that requires a legislative obligation for this type of committee, and we still believe that it is essential to have this protection for it. "
Simon Doherty, senior vice president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), said: “The veterinary profession has always understood that new trade agreements should not undermine the high animal health and welfare standards in the UK. Together with our colleagues from agriculture, we pushed for this commitment to be anchored in the legislation.
“We welcome the new Trade and Agriculture Commission, but it is important that veterinary expertise is at the heart of its membership and responsibilities. Veterinarians are vital to facilitating international trade and are committed to protecting and improving animal health, welfare and public health. Although the Commission has only an advisory role, it is important that its advice is really heard and implemented by the government. Public concern about lowering animal welfare standards is high and consumers need to have confidence in what they buy. "