60 agri and environment groups call for PM to protect UK food standards
Over 60 farm and environmental groups have sent a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, calling for UK food standards to be safeguarded in all future trade policies.
The letter was sent to coincide with the passing of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which has now gained Royal Assent.
Co-signees include the Soil Association, CLA, National Trust, Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), National Sheep Association and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
UFU president Ivor Ferguson said: “We are all agreed that Brexit provides the opportunity to foster a sustainable, carbon-neutral model of farming in the UK building on our reputation for high quality, safe and affordable food.
There may be differences of opinion as to the best way of achieving that goal, but we are all agreed that without the right domestic policy, supported by a progressive and ambitious trade policy, none of us will realise this shared vision.
“The UK Government has pledged not to prejudice or jeopardise our high standards of animal welfare or food hygiene in any way, and Secretary of State for Defra Theresa Villiers recently promised to defend our national interests and values including our sustainable farming practices.
“This coincides with the Tory manifesto commitment which states ‘in all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our (UK) high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards’.
“We are increasingly reassured that the UK Government is as committed as us to making the UK a world leader in food, farming and environmental standards.
“However, we also recognise that this is a complex issue that goes beyond just the negotiating position of the UK Government in any potential trade deals, and that there will be intense pressure on UK negotiators to make significant concessions on this issue.
“Furthermore, as an independent member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) the UK will also need to consider how it manages its trading relationships outside in terms of bilateral trade deals.
We urge the Prime Minister to take some specific actions we believe will enable him to ensure that the UK government can achieve its commitment to safeguarding the standards of UK production, now and in the future.
RSPB NI director Joanne Sherwood added: “As we leave the EU, it is vital that we do not compromise our environmental standards, or sign trade deals that undermine our farmers’ much-needed efforts to restore nature across the country.
“RSPB NI will continue to work alongside the agriculture industry, providing support and advice on delivering nature-friendly farming.
“The number of organisations supporting this letter should leave the Government in no doubt about the strength of feeling on this issue, and the support that exists for a trade policy based on high standards, and genuine economic and environmental sustainability.”