UK government must match rhetoric with action on farm trade and standards

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The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has joined with over 60 farming, food, environmental and animal welfare lobby groups in writing to the Prime Minister calling upon the Government to take affirmative action to support our high production standards at home and to champion those standards internationally.

With the UK leaving the European Union this Friday (31 January 2020), the Government is giving itself only 11 months to get fully ready to be trading outside of the EU Customs Union and Single Market as fully fledged members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

TFA Chief Executive, George Dunn said “We welcome the Government’s stated objectives to ensure we do not undermine our high food safety, environmental and animal welfare standards in our future trading relationships. However, these commitments will be mere rhetoric without clear legislation to protect standards at our borders. Within the rules of the WTO, we will not get off first base if we can’t point to firm legislation which supports our standards.”

Together with strong statute, the Government must also be smart in how it will use its newfound powers to set tariffs on imports.

“Producing to higher standards at home in comparison to some of the methods of production used abroad, inevitably, leads to higher costs. We must not undermine UK producers by allowing tariff free or low tariff access to the UK market for food and food ingredients produced to standards which would be illegal domestically. Whilst the Government is mindful not to add to costs for consumers, it is also in consumers’ long-term interest to ensure the production systems are operating to good standards. Smart use of our tariff arrangements will be a key part of our armoury,” said Mr Dunn.

At the same time, leaving the European Union gives us the opportunity of building wealth and prosperity by trading on our high standards internationally through seeking out new export markets for UK produce.

“It is vital that the UK delivers a free trade agreement with the European Union before we leave the Brexit implementation period. However, we must also see a concerted effort to develop new and important markets, prioritising China and the Far East, where we have only been able to scratch the surface thus far. Part of that effort should involve a re-gearing of the work of the Agriculture and Horticultural Development Board to focus more of its £65 million annual budget towards market development,” said Mr Dunn.

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