Future trade deals will not jeopardise the food safety and animal welfare standards that Britain’s special market for food is based on, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice said Wednesday.
Addressing the two-day annual conference of the National Farmers Union (NFU) in Birmingham, Eustice called on British farmers to “have no more jangling nerves about our ability to compete on the international stage,” as farmers are increasingly worried about government’s stance on a U.S. trade deal.
A day before Eustice’s speech, NFU President Minette Batters urged the government to show global leadership and defend British farm standards as the benchmark for any food imports in future trade deals.
“This year the government must…insist that UK farm standards are the benchmark for climate-friendly farming around the world and that whoever wants to trade with us, trades on our terms,” said Batters in her keynote speech.
In August last year, she warned that U.S. farms could “outcompete” British producers if standards were compromised.
“We must not allow those standards to be undermined by imports of goods which would be illegal for our farmers to produce here,” said Batters, calling for an import ban on chlorine-washed chicken, which was banned in the European Union (EU) in 1997 over food safety concerns but is considered “safe” in the United States.
“This isn’t just about chlorinated chicken. This is about a wider principle. We must not tie the hands of British farmers to the highest rung of the standards ladder while waving through food imports which may not even reach the bottom rung,” she further noted.
For Eustice, Britain should not get spooked by some “Haka performance” on the global trading environment.
“We have in this country some of the most efficient and innovative farmers in the world and we need to get on the pitch and compete,” he noted.
After leaving the EU on Jan. 31, Britain is free to negotiate and sign new trade deals with countries like the United States and China. Enditem