Dear Lord Shrewsbury, Daniel Kawczynski and the UK government,
We support our rural community, farmers, animal welfare, environmental and food safety standards, and we urge you to act now, in order to protect them. As you will be aware, on the 10th June the Agriculture Bill is due to return to the House of Lords for its second reading. We urge on you to amend the bill, in order to reflect these values.
At time of writing, close to 1 million people have signed a petition by the National Farmers Union which states “…Before the UK begins to negotiate trade deals with countries around the world, I call on the UK Government to put into law rules that prevent food being imported to the UK which is produced in ways that would be illegal here.”.
The petition is in response to a majority of MPs, including Mr Kawczynski, voting against an amendment to the Agricultural Bill, put forward by Conservative MP Neil Parish, requiring new international treaties on the import of agricultural and food products to comply with World Trade Organisation safety rules and the UK’s own standards. Along with the NFU, the amendment was also supported by the RSPB, RSPCA, Friends of the Earth, CLA, National Trust, Soil Association, Which?, Sustainable Food Trust, Green Alliance, Wildlife Trusts, LEAF, Sustain, NFU CYMRU, Wildlife and Countryside Link, TFA, Ulster Farmers Union, Land Workers Alliance, and British Veterinary Association.
We would like to remind you that this government was elected on a manifesto that stated “In all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.” However, it has now been reported that a leaked memo instructed ministers to have
“no specific policy” on animal welfare in US trade talks. It also suggests UK regulations could be changed to accommodate a US trade deal.
The government appears to have decided against incorporating these standards into law because, as former international trade secretary Liam Fox pointed out during his speech in parliament on the 13th May: “The US would walk were the proposals to become law in the United Kingdom, and it would be swiftly followed by others—the Australians, the New Zealanders and those involved in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership would be unlikely to take kindly to it.”
Fox then went on to say “They do not want the incorporation of UK rules to become a prerequisite to trading agreements with the United Kingdom.”
And the Financial Times reported on 14th May that “the Department for International Trade was preparing to offer a ‘big concession package’ to US negotiators in the coming months that would reduce the cost of some agricultural imports to unlock a trade deal with Washington.”
The NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts responded to the failure of the Parish amendment by saying: “Let’s also hold politicians to account. Politicians who have said they value the importance of standards, they understand the importance of standards, but yet didn’t vote for the amendment. I want to know going forward how they will protect those standards, because they are absolutely critical to me as a farmer, to you as a farmer, but also to our consumers who value the standards we produce to.”
We agree with the Shadow Environment Secretary Luke Pollard that: “Food sold in the UK whether grown here or elsewhere must meet our high animal welfare and environmental standards. No trade deal is worth diluting our values”.
It is vital that the Agriculture Bill is amended accordingly, to reflect the manifesto upon which this government was elected, before it receives Royal Assent.
Given the importance of this issue, this letter will be shared with journalists and posted on social media. Yours sincerely,
On behalf of Shrewsbury and Atcham Labour Party
Wynn Davies (Chair)
Anna Bramall (Treasurer and Veterinary Surgeon)