Trade deals must be made 'on our terms', NFU warns

NFU's President Minette Batters called for the government to enshrine into law legislation which protects British farming's standards
NFU's President Minette Batters called for the government to enshrine into law legislation which protects British farming's standards

The NFU president urged the government to show 'global leadership' on food and farming by putting in legislation that call for rules on minimum standards for imports.

Minette Batters made her opening speech today (25 February) at the NFU Conference in Birmingham as concerns grow over Number 10's stance on lower-standard food imports.

It comes as George Eustice, the new Defra Secretary, recently refused to give a cast-iron guarantee that the UK will not import chlorinated chicken under any trade deal with the US.

As part of an interview with Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Mr Eustice initially refused twice to rule out the UK accepting chlorinated chicken or hormone beef.



Pressed a third time to make the commitment, he said the government 'won't make any moves on standards'.

Farming industry groups have consistently warned that granting lower standard food imports would effectively undercut domestic produce made to higher standards.



Some practices used in the United States are currently banned by the European Union due to perceived safety concerns.

These include genetically-modified crops, chlorine-washed chicken and the use of hormones in beef production.

Underlining this concern, Mrs Batters said that other countries must trade with the United Kingdom 'on our terms' to avoid any lowering of industry standards.

“We must not tie the hands of British farmers to the highest rung of the standards ladder while waving through food imports which may not even reach the bottom rung,” she insisted.

“If the government is serious about animal welfare and environmental protection, and doing more than any previous government, it must put legislation in the agriculture bill.

“What is government waiting for? What is more important to our economy, our health and our environment than the very food we eat?”

The NFU president also called for government to show 'global leadership', and insisted that UK farms standards are the 'benchmark for climate-friendly farming around the world'.



"We must not allow those standards to be undermined by imports of goods which would be illegal for our farmers to produce here,” she said.

“In Japan, Australia, China, Canada, Brazil, Malaysia and India, the use of antibiotics is permitted for growth promotion. This isn’t just about chlorinated chicken. This is about a wider principle.”