Trade deals that allow cheap food imports into the UK will not be supported by MPs in Westminster, the president of the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) has claimed.
“There is a growing body of them that don’t want to see the countryside derelict and don’t want to see our food standards lowered,” Victor Chestnutt told reporters last week.
He acknowledged that some policymakers want liberal trade where UK farmers compete with food imports produced to lower animal welfare, environmental and labour standards.
However, he maintained that this approach is not supported by “the majority within the House of Commons” and he pointed out that MPs will be voting to approve each new trade deal.
“I think they will have difficulty opening the doors to lower standards of food production,” the UFU president said.
Chestnutt sits on the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC), a group that is advising the UK government on post-Brexit trade policy. It is also set to produce reports on the impact that each new trade deal has on UK farmers.
Our starting point was simple
Chestnutt said he was initially sceptical on whether members of TAC would listen to the concerns of farmer representatives.
“When TAC was set up, I was thinking is this something we will have to participate in for a while then walk away from, but actually at one stage I thought it was the free traders that were going to walk out,” he said.
The first report by TAC is due to be published next month and the group’s chair, Tim Smith, has indicated it will recommend that food import standards are not lowered in the UK.
“Our starting point was simple – a UK trade policy which creates a fair and safe food and farming system for all, no race to the bottom, no backsliding on standards,” he said in his address at the Oxford Farming Conference.
“We have spent decades developing and homing our world leading standards and there will be no turning back that clock,” Smith maintained.