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Sat, 8 August 2020

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New trade deals will give farmers global opportunities, without compromising our food standards

New trade deals will give farmers global opportunities, without compromising our food standards

Scottish farmers can be confident that this UK Government will back them all the way in securing the markets they need to prosper into the future, says John Lamont MP | Credit: PA Images

4 min read

The opportunities of new trade deals gives our food producers and farmers the chance to sell their produce around the world whilst maintaining our own high food standards here in the UK.

As the son of a Berwickshire farmer, who has the privilege of representing the rural communities of the Scottish Borders, I know from very personal experience the truth of the saying that the cultivation of the earth is the most important labour of man.

Scotland and the UK produces some incredible food.

I believe that the opportunities of new trade deals gives our food producers and farmers the chance to sell their produce around the world whilst maintaining our own high food standards here in the UK.

This UK Government has been clear that it will never compromise on our food standards. 

The Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland will continue to ensure that all food imports comply with the UK’s high safety standards.

Further to that, the Government has made a commitment that in all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on the UK’s high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards. 

The fact is British farmers have a great deal to gain from the lowering of trade barriers, allowing them to access new markets for our high quality produce. 

Crucially, the EU Withdrawal Act will transfer all existing EU food safety provisions, including existing import requirements, onto the UK statute book, where they will be enshrined in law.  

These import standards include a ban on using artificial growth hormones in domestic and imported products – so no hormone-injected beef – and set out that no products, other than potable water, are approved to decontaminate poultry carcasses – so no chlorine washed chicken. 

Any changes to existing food safety legislation would require new legislation to be brought before Parliament.

I know that there has been considerable debate over some of the amendments proposed to the Agriculture Bill, and unfortunately some degree of misinformation about these. 

The fact is British farmers have a great deal to gain from the lowering of trade barriers, allowing them to access new markets for our high quality produce. 

We need those new trade deals with other countries to enable our farmers and other businesses to expand the range of volume of products for export around the world.  

Take for example, the export of Scottish malting grain exported to non-EU countries, like Japan.  Or consider the enormous potential for further growth of Scottish red meat export.

It is important that we put ourselves in a position where we can build on successes such as these, but if the contentious amendments to the Agriculture Bill had passed, such increased trading opportunities would have been lost, to the disadvantage of Scotland’s farming sector and the wider economy. 

The reality is that if the SNP and others who were supporting these amendments had secured them, it would have effectively blocked those enhanced international trade opportunities for Scottish farmers and many of our other distinctive Scottish industries.

It is also very important to note that no current trade agreements include provisions forcing partners to operate by another country’s domestic regulations and standards. 

If we insisted on this we would not be able to roll over the CETA deal with Canada and other parties like South Africa and Japan.

It would also call into question our refusal to accept a level playing field with the EU if we are demanding it elsewhere. 

Trying to force all trading partners to produce to the exact same standards as the UK will only result in less export opportunities for Scottish farmers and cut them off from world markets.

What we need is a robust framework which provides support to primary producers to provide security of food supply, while expanding the global trade opportunities to get high-quality Scottish produce onto kitchen tables in as many countries around the world as possible. 

I believe that the Agriculture Bill provides the platform for those expanded trade opportunities, while maintaining the tough environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards we all want to see maintained.

I know that Scottish farmers have what it takes to compete with the rest of the world.  And Scottish farmers can be confident that this UK Government will back them all the way in securing the markets they need to prosper into the future.

 

John Lamont is Conservative MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk.

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