The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has written to all Northern Ireland (NI) MPs, about creating a Trade and Standards Roadmap that would safeguard UK food standards. Within the letter, the UFU has expressed a clear desire that UK imports meet the same high standards that UK farmers adhere to, through the establishment of a Trade, Food and Farming Standards Commission.
UFU president Ivor Ferguson said, “We wrote to NI MPs because we wanted to explain the thinking behind this UK farm unions’ initiative on the need to establish a Trade, Food and Farming Standards Commission. This is an important body and we emphasised why we think it provides a sensible solution to the challenges that lie ahead as Brexit trade negotiations progress.
“Ultimately, it comes down to the verbal assurances and manifesto commitments that state Government will not undermine UK food standards by allowing low-quality imports to enter the country in a post-Brexit trade policy. While we have welcomed these pledges, they are incapable of answering the question that lays at the heart of the matter: how can Government, both practically and legally, liberalise trade while safeguarding the UK’s high and valued standards of production?
“The idea of a Commission is more about the process than the actual body itself. The Commission will not be a quango or a regulator and will not have a veto over trade deals. It will have a specific, time-limited task – to produce a trade and standards roadmap that can manage the many complex and potentially conflicting aims of Government, while pursuing an independent trade policy that promotes high standards both here and abroad. The Commission would consist of a panel of experts that would present its recommendations to Government and Parliament, which can then be debated.
“We first proposed the idea of the Commission in February 2019 and received immediate support from the then Secretary of State for Defra, Michael Gove. Since then its scope has evolved through collaborative discussion with Government and it has widespread support from farming organisations, NGOs and the general public.”
Ferguson concluded saying, “We desperately need a detailed trade and standards roadmap to ensure Government’s commitment to safeguard UK food standards is upheld. By establishing the Commission, which will quickly provide clear and detailed recommendations for Government, the UK can meet the aspirations of our public and farmers resulting in an outward looking UK that effectively champions the high-quality food our farmers produce.”