MPs urged to back farmers as Trade Bill returns to Commons

NFU President Minette Batters has written to MPs ahead of the second reading of the Trade Bill in the House of Commons on Wednesday 20 May
NFU President Minette Batters has written to MPs ahead of the second reading of the Trade Bill in the House of Commons on Wednesday 20 May

The NFU has urged MPs to call for a trade policy that safeguards British farmers from cheaper imports as the Trade Bill starts its passage in the Commons.

NFU President Minette Batters has written to all MPs ahead of the debate today (20 May), highlighting how the UK was at a 'make or break moment' for British farming.

The Bill, which was first presented to the House of Commons when Theresa May was prime minister, will begin its second reading.

After her resignation, parliament was prorogued and therefore the Bill has had to start again from scratch.

The restarting of the legislation's process, however, means that farming groups now have a second opportunity to raise industry concerns.

The NFU is urging MPs to ask how the government intends to honour its manifesto pledge that farmers' high standards would not be undermined in future trade policy.

The Conservative Party manifesto at last year's general election committed to maintaining British animal welfare and food safety standards.

The union is also pressing the importance of a Trade, Food and Farming Standards Commission – a body which would develop solutions to promote free trade while holding all food imports to the UK’s standards.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) recently backed farmers' calls for the body, as it would advise government during important Brexit trade negotiations.

It comes after the Agriculture Bill was passed into the House of Lords unamended last week, despite widespread support from the farming industry for changes.

Minette Batters said a trade policy was needed that safeguarded farmers from the 'damaging' impact of imported food that would be illegal to produce in the UK.

"Failure to do this would undermine our values of animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety, all of which are incredibly important to the public," she said.

“As the Trade Bill is debated for the first time in the House of Commons today, I ask MPs to consider one thing – where do they see the UK on the global stage?

“Last week we heard MPs say that the standards of imported food was an issue for the Trade Bill rather than the Agriculture Bill. With this in mind, I hope to see it fully addressed today."

Mrs Batters added that the trade commission would be an 'eminently sensible approach' aimed at ensuring high standards were safeguarded within future trade policy.

“Our trade policy must reflect our moral responsibilities to the planet and the people and creatures that live on it," the NFU president said.

“I ask all MPs to speak up for British farming today; ask for a commission that will protect the UK’s food values from sub-standard imports and ask for more parliamentary scrutiny over future trade deals."