Thank you for contacting me about maintaining UK food production standards.
The manifesto I stood on was clear that in all our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards. Ministers remain firmly committed to upholding these standards outside of the EU and I know that the EU Withdrawal Act will transfer all existing EU food safety provisions, including existing import requirements, onto the UK statute book. The UK needs the freedom to negotiate deals on a case-by-case basis and imposing an outright blanket ban on imports that do not meet UK production standards is not the right way to support our farmers. This would be unprecedented in global trading.
It is welcome that the Government has extended the Trade and Agriculture Commission and will place it on a full statutory footing in the Trade Bill, giving farmers a stronger voice in UK trade policy. The Commission will produce a report to be laid in Parliament on the impact on animal welfare and agriculture of each new free trade deal signed after the end of the transition period. This will allow Parliamentarians access to independent and expert advice when reviewing the impact of each trade deal.
I agree that Parliament plays an important role in scrutinising our trade policy. I am therefore pleased that a Government amendment to the Agriculture Act was passed which will bolster parliamentary scrutiny of free trade agreements. This amendment will place a duty on the Government to report to Parliament on whether, or to what extent, commitments in new free trade deals relating to agricultural goods are consistent with maintaining UK levels of statutory protection in relation to human, animal and plant life and health; animal welfare; and environmental protection.
Finally, the UK’s food standards, for both domestic production and imports, are overseen the by the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland. They will continue to provide advice to the UK and Scottish governments in order to ensure that all food imports comply with the UK’s high safety standards.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Kind regards, Alister