Farming organisations from across the UK have urged the government to stand up for farmers during its negotiations.
As trade talks with Australia and New Zealand make progress, 19 farming bodies have insisted on UK’s high farming standards to be kept.
The UK groups asked for protections to tackle climate change, “irreversible” industry damage and to prevent negative precedents which could reflect in future trade deals.
They also called on the government to ensure trade deals are “genuinely reciprocal” in terms of national benefits.
National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Minette Batters highlighted the importance of government safeguards towards food standards – whilst supporting the liberalisation of trade.
She said: “We know that if we’re to open up the opportunities of new markets overseas for UK farmers, we will have to offer greater access to our own markets in return.
“However, this trade-off needs to be balanced, and we need to make sure concessions to our hugely valuable home market are not given away lightly.
“There is a very real risk that, if we get it wrong, UK farming will suffer irreversible damage rather than flourish in the way we all desire, to the detriment of our environment, our food security and our rural communities.”
“The plain truth is this: removing tariffs for vast, unmanageable volumes of Australian beef or New Zealand lamb – or, God forbid, allowing zero tariffs on all their produce – could spell the end.” [2/4]— National Farmers' Union (@NFUtweets) May 16, 2021
“Global leader” in animal rights
Batters said the deals should showcase UK’s position as a “global leader” in animal rights, environmental standards and climate action.
She said: “The British government faces a choice. It must recognise that opening up zero tariff trade on all imports of products such as beef and lamb means British farming, working to its current high standards, will struggle to compete.
“Does Government lower standards here, which it says it won’t and a million people who signed our petition don’t want to see, or will it watch family farms go out of business when they are unable to compete?
“At a time when government has placed huge importance on its aim of levelling up, this would fundamentally undermine any ambition to narrow the rural-urban divide or to ensure all parts of the UK are included in the government’s desire to build back in the months ahead.”
Batters urged negotiators to be mindful of the impact of all free trade agreements which will be finalised within the next few weeks.
She said the deals will set the scene for wider market access to the UK.
“The government must assess how the impact of these concessions combined across multiple trading partners will impact on domestic producers and the rural economy,” she said.
She added: “As negotiations come down to the wire, we urge the government to work closely with the UK Farming Roundtable on these issues and engage with stakeholders to inform their approach to negotiations.”