There are no representatives from the NI agri food sector in the group which has been set to scrutinise the impact of post-Brexit trade deals on UK farmers.

The new Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) held its first meeting last week and is chaired by international law academic Professor Lorand Bartels.

A different TAC was originally set up last year to produce a one-off report for the UK government on recommendations for post-Brexit trade policy.

The original TAC had 15 members, including Ulster Farmers’ Union president Victor Chesnutt, as well as representatives from the main farm lobby organisations in Britain.

The new TAC is to be a permanent body which will scrutinise each trade deal that the UK government strikes after it has been signed.

The TAC report will be presented to members of parliament, who are then able to delay trade deals from being ratified.

However, the new 12-member TAC has much less farmer representation when compared to its previous incarnation.

The only members that come from the farm lobby are former National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Meurig Raymond and the NFU’s director of trade and business strategy Nick von Westenholz.

The chief executive of Red Tractor quality assurance, Jim Moseley, has a seat on the new TAC, and so does Kate Rowell, chair of Quality Meat Scotland.

Their views on food imports are likely to be at odds with some others around the table, including former New Zealand Trade and Agriculture Minister Sir Lockwood Smith.

Two other members of the new TAC, trade lawyer Shanker Singham and economist Catherine McBride, are also vocal supporters of liberal trade and both have written for the pro-Brexit news website Brexit Central.

Ignore recommendations

The UK government has been widely criticised for effectively ignoring the views of the original TAC by already agreeing to tariff and quota free food imports from both Australia and New Zealand.

The government also received criticism for agreeing to the two trade deals in principle, before setting up the new TAC, and for taking over six months to respond to the recommendations from the original TAC.

In an interview last week, Professor Lorand Bartels acknowledged that the new TAC was “toothless” as it could not block new trade deals, but he maintained the group was “not meaningless”.

“Hopefully we can offer something that will at least put a debate on a proper factual footing,” Bartels told BBC Radio Four.