Farmers demanding that food standards are upheld in post-Brexit trade deals are to make their voices heard during a tractor demonstration in central London.
The agricultural vehicles will assemble at New Covent Garden from 1pm on Monday as part of a protest planned by campaign group Save British Farming.
They will then head for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Parliament Square in Westminster as MPs prepare to vote on an amendment to the Agriculture Bill proposed by peers.
Denied a vote
But according to reports in the Independent, MPs could be denied a vote due to an unprecedented tactic that is being rolled out to thwart an expected Tory revolt.
Ministers will dodge the vote by arguing that giving increased powers to the new Trade and Agriculture Commission – currently temporary and advisory only – will impose an extra cost.
They will argue that goes beyond the powers of the Lords and so refuse a money resolution – preventing the amendment to the Agriculture Bill being called.
The move to prevent debate on a key amendment has been condemned as “unbelievable” by the peer who introduced it in the Lords.
National Farmers’ Union president Minette Batters said she wants to see a body of technical experts put together to analyse trade deals and assess the level of food protections in place before MPs go on to have a “final say” on the proposed agreement.
“At the moment we are talking about the complex issue of food safety – so, chlorination of chicken, chemical treatment of chicken, hormone-treated beef,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“The US could easily come here and say to our Government ‘Test it, it’s safe’. We would have to test it and it would be safe – scientifically it is safe.
“But the point is there are no federal laws in the US on how you keep your animals, on your stocking density, on your light.”
Guarantee in law
Labour is calling on ministers to put a “guarantee in law” that food standards will not be lowered as a result of the trade deals it is currently seeking with the US, Australia and others.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss is due to publish a written ministerial statement on the end of round two of the trade talks with Australia on Monday.
Shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard said: “The Government have said they back our British standards and farmers – it’s time to put their money where their mouth is.
“Ministers keep promising they’ll maintain high animal welfare and environmental standards after Brexit, but there’s still a serious threat that they will drop that promise to get the trade deals they’re so desperate to secure with Donald Trump and others.
“If the Government are serious about maintaining our high UK standards post-Brexit, they should get a guarantee in law, and support Labour’s amendment on Monday to safeguard our standards and back British farmers.
“To vote out their own manifesto commitment to protect food standards from their flagship food and Agriculture Bill is absurd.”