‘What are the benefits from a US trade deal we don’t have already?’

The president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has called on the Government to explain what the opportunities are from a US trade deal “that we’re not having already”.

Speaking on the Today Programme on BBC, Minette Batters also said the Government must answer the question “what is it going to sacrifice in return”.

“We have to prioritise the trading relationship with our closest trading partner, the EU, first,” she argued.

We’ve had politicians talking about higher welfare standards, absolutely maintaining what we have, which we’ve said from day one. We want to maintain our food values, effectively which are about animal welfare and environmental protection.

Batters pointed out the agriculture sector in the US does not have those standards written into its legislation.

The NFU president continued: “There’s really important questions to be answered by Government as to what it sees as an advantage in a US trade deal, and how will the current standards be enshrined if parliament ratifies a trade deal.

“We don’t have any answers to any of those questions,” she said.

Are we going to hold our nerve and make sure we insist on that in future trade deals, or are we going to be sacrificed.

“Agriculture or food is always the last chapter in any trade deal to be agreed, and there are huge differences in opinion of what is needed in a US-UK trade deal,” Batters highlighted.

She pointed out that Michael Gove, the former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, had committed to create a commission to look at the possibility of having EU food standards enshrined in UK law – but that a cross-Government commitment to do so has not yet been forthcoming.

“We need that to happen across Government. We need that assurance from the Prime Minister that we will not be sacrificed in future free trade deals,” Batters argued.

She concluded: “Otherwise, agriculture should be potentially left out of a US-UK trade deal, and that would sort the matter.”