Isle of Wight Conservative MP, Bob Seely, came under fire this week for voting against an amendment to the Agricultural Bill that sought to protect post-Brexit food standards in the UK.
NFU President Minette Batters met today (Wednesday) with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, where she stressed the need for action to safeguard British farming’s high standards in trade policy.
Seely: Assured Ministers will drive a hard bargain
News OnTheWight asked Bob why he’d voted in the way he had. He replied,
“I believe that the Lord’s amendment to the Agriculture Bill requiring imports of food and agricultural goods to meet domestic standards risked adverse effects. This amendment would have made it very difficult to secure any new trade deals, and I know that such conditions are not in place for imports under agreements negotiated during our membership of the EU.
“I am assured that Ministers will drive a hard bargain for access to our market, and existing import conditions will need to be respected. I also had concerns that the amendment would jeopardise the 19 currently unsigned agreements that the UK is seeking to roll over.
“Trade, of course, already takes place under those agreements, with existing import requirements met. However, unpicking those and demanding the numerous extra conditions in the amendment could upset the current deals if partners refused and walked away.”
Batters: Nation does not want to see standards undermined
During the meeting with the PM, Mrs Batters from the NFU urged him to increase the parliamentary scrutiny of trade deals, in particular strengthening the Trade and Agriculture Commission to allow MPs to have their say on how trade deals would impact British food and farming.
“It was good to have the opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister today, at such an important time for British farming.
“We are at a juncture that will have ramifications for both farming and the wider public for decades to come. I made clear that the nation cares deeply about British food and the high standards it is produced to. They do not want to see it undermined by imported food that could be produced to standards that are illegal here.
“Already, over a million people have signed our petition and tens of thousands of letters have been written to MPs on this issue. Those people want action to ensure our high standards of food production are not undercut.
“We also discussed the critical importance of getting our new agricultural policy right and the urgent clarity needed now for our fruit, veg and flowers growers about where they will get their all-important workforce from in time for the 2021 season and beyond.
“I hope to continue to have constructive discussions with the Prime Minister and his government ministers as the Agriculture Bill reaches its final stages and throughout our trade negotiations with the EU and others.”