Leaving the EU can ensure that British food and farming becomes 'the envy of the world', farm groups and environmentalists have said.
Over sixty groups, including the NFU, RSPCA and Soil Association, have sent a joint letter to the prime minister calling for UK food standards to be protected after Brexit.
The letter was sent to coincide with the the passing of Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which has now had Royal Assent.
It reads: “Brexit can be a catalyst for UK farming not just to be the envy of the world, but to provide gold-standard model for high standard, high quality, sustainable food production.”
The groups agree that Brexit provides an opportunity to foster a sustainable, carbon neutral model of farming in the UK building on high quality, safe and affordable food.
But they say the government must include its manifesto commitment to protecting animal welfare and food standards when trade negotiations commence.
A trade and standards commission should be created to oversee such talks, amid fears that the government could allow lower standard imports in order to reach a lucrative trade deal.
It comes as Boris Johnson pledged in the past “not to in any way prejudice or jeopardise our standards of animal welfare or food hygiene”, and the Secretary of State for Defra recently promised to “defend our national interests and our values, including our high standards of animal welfare.”
The Conservative Party’s manifesto also made a commitment that “in all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.”
But the joint letter states that there will be 'intense pressure' on British negotiators to make 'significant concessions'.
“It is vital that we have more than just verbal assurances to ensure our standards are properly safeguarded,” it says.
“In light of this, we urge you to take some specific actions we believe will enable you to ensure that the UK government can achieve its commitment to safeguard the standards of UK production, now and in the future.”
The groups add that Brexit means the UK can pioneer a new type of global trading system; one that moves away from the 'narrow and dated focus on ever cheaper goods', to one that rises to the challenges of climate change and promotes sustainable models of production and consumption.
The letter concludes: “With the enactment of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill and our formal departure from the EU just days away, we believe these measures must be pursued as a priority.
“We believe that with the right policy framework and the establishment of a clear understanding of our shared vision for the future, Brexit can be a catalyst for UK farming not just to be the envy of the world, but to provide gold-standard model for high standard, high quality, sustainable food production.
“We would welcome the chance for a delegation of the signatories to this letter to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss how we can work in partnership to achieve this vision.”