Our manifesto is clear that in all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards. We remain firmly committed to upholding our high environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards outside the EU. The EU Withdrawal Act will transfer all existing EU food safety provisions, including existing import requirements, onto the UK statute book.
These import standards include a ban on using artificial growth hormones in domestic and imported products and set out that no products, other than potable water, are approved to decontaminate poultry carcasses. Any changes to existing food safety legislation would require new legislation to be brought before Parliament.
The UK’s food standards, for both domestic production and imports, are overseen by the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland. These are independent agencies and provide advice to the UK and Scottish governments. They will continue to do so in order to ensure that all food imports comply with the UK’s high safety standards. Decisions on these standards are a matter for the UK and will be made separately from any trade agreement.
I am pleased that the Government has established a Trade and Agriculture Commission. By forming this Commission, Ministers can ensure close engagement with the agriculture industry to help inform, shape and guide agricultural trade policy, so that this is recognised throughout our trade negotiations. Once the Commission has finished its work, it will produce a recommendatory report in line with its terms of reference that will be presented to Parliament by the Department for International Trade.
Amongst other things, the Commission will look at:
- Ensuring the farming sector remains competitive and that animal welfare and environmental standards in food production are not undermined.
- How the UK engages the WTO to build a coalition that helps advance higher animal welfare standards across the world.
The Commission's members include representatives of the National Farmers' Union (NFU) and the former Chief Veterinary Officer, and it is supported by the RSPCA, the National Sheep Association and the British Veterinary Association. Its Chair will be Tim Smith, former head of the Food Standards Agency.
Trade talks have already formally opened with the US following wide ranging consultation. Ahead of negotiations, the Government set out negotiating objectives, as well as a response to the public consultation and an initial economic assessment. A similar process will be replicated in the coming months, as the government lays out detailed proposals for deals with Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
We are already engaging with the agricultural sector as part of our trade discussions. In addition to its role on the Commission, the NFU is the agricultural representative on the Government’s Strategic Trade Advisory Group. The Government is determined to ensure that our future trade agreements will deliver benefits for our brilliant farmers and food producers.
Labelling of food will be crucial in ensuring consumers remain informed and confident about what they are buying. The Government will continue to examine options round the labelling and better consumer information, including voluntary animal welfare assurance schemes and Government backed labelling, as well as work across the globe to enhance welfare standards through bilateral promotion with trade partners and advocacy of animal welfare and environmental issues in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
I hope that the above offers reassurance that we are committed to maintaining our high animal welfare and food standards. We are a world leader in these areas and that will not change.