The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has reacted with anger and dismay at the House of Commons’ rejection of amendments to the Agriculture Bill that would protect UK consumers and producers from food imports produced to lower environmental, animal health and welfare and social standards.
Despite the House of Lords having previously supported the amendment and pressures from the agricultural industry, environmental and animal welfare bodies, MPs voted by 332 votes to 279 - a majority of 53 - to reject the amendment which would have ensured food included in any future trade deal would have to meet UK standards.
This Bill is considered to be the most important piece of UK legislation in relation to food and farming for more than 70 years. Critics say it is a sad indictment of the Brexit process that those who made numerous promises regarding protecting our markets and standards after the Withdrawal Period have opposed enshrining this in law.
As trade talks with the USA, Australia and New Zealand progress, many believe that the refusal to protect UK standards is aimed at leaving the door open for negotiators to offer market access for food which does not meet our standards as a bargaining tool.
The voted-down amendments to the UK Agricultural Bill have since been voted on again in the House of Lords and the Bill will now return to the Commons on 4th November to continue the parliamentary process of ‘ping pong’ until a final agreement is reached between the two Houses prior to the Bill receiving Royal Assent.