MPs slam delays in establishing Trade and Agriculture Commission

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

The government has been accused of pushing ahead with trade talks while 'running down the clock' on establishing the new Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC).

Cross-party MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) are raising concerns that the government is showing a lack of urgency in creating the TAC.

Amid worry that establishment of the statutory body has been further delayed while trade negotiations continue, MPs are urging International Trade Secretary Liz Truss to swiftly appoint the chair and members of the TAC.

Their letter also urges the government to establish a statutory body as opposed to the interim, non-statutory body detailed in the Secretary of State’s letter of 30 July.

Whilst her response committed to announcing the interim board’s membership over "the coming weeks", no such announcement has yet been made.

The TAC was announced last year to ensure that the interests of the British farming sector are upheld in the UK's future trade deals.

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 MPs say it is a matter of “continuing concern” that the government has yet to publish its response to the recommendations that the original TAC made in March 2021.

This is a failure which could be “interpreted as signalling indifference” to the concerns of agricultural and animal welfare stakeholders, they say.

The EFRA Committee are now calling on the International Trade department to respond to its concerns by 21 September at the latest.

Chair of EFRA, Neil Parish MP said: “These delays- both in responding to the original TAC's recommendations, and in establishing its replacement, are unacceptable.

"The government has repeated its ambition that the TAC will advise on future strategy. It is difficult to see how this can happen when negotiations are ongoing and the TAC does not exist.

"By dragging its heels in responding to the conclusions of the former TAC's report, government is effectively running the clock down on stakeholders' input into future trade deals.

"There is an increasing risk that the government’s continued inaction in this regard could be read as indifference to British stakeholders."