Farmers call for new commission to protect food standards after Brexit

National Farmers' Union president Minette Batters pictured during a visit to the Elveden Estate near Thetford. Picture: Sonya Duncan

National Farmers' Union president Minette Batters pictured during a visit to the Elveden Estate near Thetford. Picture: Sonya Duncan


Imported food must be held to Britain’s high standards to avoid cheap produce like chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef flooding our markets after Brexit.

That was the message from farming leaders, who have called for a high-level expert commission to be formed to scrutinise future trade deals and make recommendations on how to ensure environmental, safety and animal welfare standards are maintained.

National Farmers’ Union president Minette Batters is set to make the appeal while speaking to farmers – including many delegates from East Anglia – at the NFU’s national conference in Birmingham.

She will demand a commitment from government that new trade deals will not lead to a lowering of standards, or undermine farmers by allowing imports of cheaper foods that do not meet the same standards required in this country.

Food such as chlorine-washed chicken or hormone-fed beef, which are currently not permitted in the UK, could enter the food chain as a result of post-Brexit trade deals, critics warn.

In her speech, Ms Batters will say: “We are proud that British people have access to affordable and quality British food regardless of their income.

“I have asked the secretary of state to commit to ensuring that any future new trade agreements will not undermine British food standards.

“Put simply, a commitment that after Brexit the food Britain imports will be produced to the same standards which is legally required of British farmers.

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“And when I say standards, I mean all of the high standards British farmers observe - often at considerable expense - in protecting the environment, safeguarding animal welfare and providing safe food.

“The issue of maintaining our food standards is critical. Which is why I am asking for a high-level commission to be convened, bringing together government officials, industry representatives, civil society groups and experts in food and farming.

“This commission needs to be charged with producing a report before the end of the year.”

Environment secretary Michael Gove is also due to speak at the conference, where he is expected to reiterate his support for maintaining high standards in food and farming after Brexit, and his backing for Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement.

He will tell delegates: “We have been clear that we will not lower our standards in pursuit of trade deals, and that we will use the tools we have at our disposal - tariffs, quotas and legislation - to make sure standards are protected and you are not left at a competitive disadvantage.

“That is why I welcome Minette’s call to establish a commission to examine how we can maintain high standards.

“This is an idea which has a number of merits and we will be giving it full consideration.”

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