Government 'ignoring' Trade and Agriculture Commission, MPs warn

The TAC was set up last year to protect the interests of British farmers, producers and consumers
The TAC was set up last year to protect the interests of British farmers, producers and consumers

MPs have warned the government not to ignore the Trade and Agriculture Commission's (TAC) recommendations when negotiating post-Brexit trade deals.

In a new letter to International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, the MPs said the TAC's recommendations were being 'left to gather dust' while government steamed ahead.

The independent body was launched last year in a bid to bring together the industry so they could report back to government to inform trade policy and negotiations.

Since then it has heard from experts on farming, animal welfare, the environment and trade, and called for evidence from the sector.

The TAC will be reviewed every three years, and it is meant to produce a report on the impact on farming of each free trade deal the government signs.

But the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee has expressed 'disappointment' over the failure of government to respond to the body's recommendations.

With the announcement of a new UK-Australia trade deal, the letter stated that MPs were 'surprised' at Ms Truss's claim that the TAC was not intended to influence the negotiation of FTAs, and instead merely 'advise on future strategy'.

The TAC's creation had provided the British farming sector with reassurance that the government would engage with farmers' concerns about the potential weakening of the UK’s high standards when sealing trade deals.

EFRA has urged the government to respond to the TAC's key recommendations 'without delay', and to appoint a Chair and members that would 'scrutinise' FTAs before the parliamentary summer recess at the latest.

Chair of EFRA, Neil Parish MP said that farmers had hoped that TAC's establishment would ensure that the industry was being 'considered and listened to'.

He added that to let down the sector would 'make a mockery of the commitments made when the TAC was created.'

“It seems nonsensical that government has jumped the gun and finalised the new UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement without first demonstrating that it has taken on board the thorough conclusions of the Trade and Agriculture Commission's report.

"The Trade Secretary has stated that the TAC was established to 'advise on future strategy', yet the government has pushed ahead with striking new trade deals that have major implications for the future of farming in this country, while the TAC’s report risks being left to gather dust.

"If Ministers cannot commit to publishing a written response to the Commission’s report before the summer recess, I shall invite them to provide oral evidence on the Commission's recommendations," Mr Parish said.

It comes after the NFU highlighted on Tuesday (15 June) its concerns over the potential impact of future post-Brexit trade deals.

The union it was 'critical' that the government engaged with industry on the details of the Australia trade deal 'as soon as possible', and that parliament was also involved.