The department for international trade has bowed to demands by farmers that it sets up a commission to make recommendations for UK agricultural trade policy, higher animal welfare standards, and export opportunities for UK farming.
Liz Truss, DIT secretary of state, has published the letter she sent to NFU president Minette Batters, agreeing to the formation of the commission, which the NFU has lobbied hard for amid concerns post-Brexit trade deals could harm UK farming by allowing cheap imports of food.
It is a significant win for the NFU, which has gathered over a million signatures of its petition in recent weeks asking for the government to ensure food standards are kept at their current levels as part of any trade deal with countries including the US, which has lower environmental and animal welfare standards, and therefore lower costs.
The letter from Truss states: “I wholeheartedly agree that any trade deal the UK strikes must be fair and reciprocal to our farmers and must not compromise on our high standards of food safety and animal welfare. I have been very clear on both these points and will continue to fight for the interests of our farming industry in any and all trade agreements we negotiate.”
NFU President Minette Batters said: “I am very pleased that the government is taking concrete action to address the challenges of safeguarding our high food and farming standards by agreeing to set up a Trade and Agriculture Commission, something we first called for over 18 months ago. This is a hugely important development.
“We look forward to working with government and other stakeholders in the days ahead on the Commission’s terms of reference, to ensure that its work is genuinely valuable. In particular, it will be vital that Parliament is able to properly consider the Commission’s recommendations and can ensure government implements them effectively.
“The NFU will continue to scrutinise the progress of trade negotiations with the USA and other countries over the coming months outside of the work of the Commission so that our future trade deals work for British farmers and consumers, and believe it is vital that Parliament is provided a strengthened role in this regard as well.”