The 15-member UK Trade and Agriculture Commission has produced its final report setting out advice to government on how best to advance the interests of UK farmers, food producers and consumers in future trade agreements.

Given that the Commission only started work last July, the 136-page report is a comprehensive analysis of the complex issues that surround trade.

There are a couple of points that stand out. First is the numerous references to trade liberalisation, and the fact that the UK should become a global leader in freeing up trade by removing tariffs and quotas.

But there is a caveat to that, with a recommendation that imports should meet the high environmental, animal welfare and climate change standards expected of UK farmers.

It is an area that the agri food industry needs to watch very closely as many countries will claim to have high standards.

Removing tariffs for imports potentially exposes farmers to much increased competition, and the more goods circulating in Britain not approved by the EU, the greater the trade friction between Britain and NI.

Throughout the report there are also frequent references to the opportunities the UK now has outside the EU. To exploit those opportunities, the Commission recommends that the government should put more energy and resources into promoting exports, accessing new markets and marketing produce.

Yet there was nothing to stop the UK doing a lot of that when it was a member of the EU, and the irony is that the Commission’s report holds up the Republic of Ireland’s Origin Green marketing approach as an example of how to successfully grow food exports.

With the UK government keen to show that it can make a success of Brexit, perhaps now there is the impetus required to help local food businesses attract new customers.

In the meantime, the Trade and Agriculture Commission takes on a new statutory role, producing a report for MPs on the impact on animal welfare and agriculture of each free trade deal the UK government signs in future.

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