Lower farming standards will damage UK

The UK should only give tariff-free access to food which matches the high environmental and welfare standards demanded of UK farmers.

That was one of the findings of the report published yesterday by the independent Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) – which was established in response to concerns that new free trade agreements (FTAs) had the potential to allow a race to the bottom which would undercut British farmers.

The recommendations for safeguarding the UK’s high standards in future trade deals will now be considered by the UK government, who will have to reconcile the tensions of a government trade policy which seeks to liberalise trade and keep domestic standards along with the British farming sector.

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English NFU president, Minette Batters said the report did a good job at dispelling the notion that such a task would be easy.

“Ultimately, how those trade-offs are managed and weighed remains a decision for ministers and it is vital that the government now sets out, without delay, how it intends to accommodate these recommendations within a trade strategy that works for UK farmers and consumers alike.”

NFU president Martin Kennedy commended the role played by his predecessor, Andrew McCornick in drawing up the report, saying: “NFU Scotland wholeheartedly agrees that UK trade policy must enable a fair and safe farming system for all - with no race to the bottom or erosion of standards - and an ambition to play a leading role in international agricultural issues.”