I am assured that the Government is firmly committed to maintaining our high environmental, animal welfare, and food safety standards, and ensuring that future trade agreements work for our farmers.
The Trade Bill cannot be used to implement new free trade agreements; only to roll over existing deals that the UK has already been party to through its EU membership. These ‘continuity’ deals are intended to replicate as close as possible the effects of commitments in EU agreements, and therefore they will not result in food standards being lowered.
Although future trade agreements with countries like Australia and New Zealand are outside the scope of the Trade Bill, the Government has made a clear commitment to upholding our food standards in any such deals. Moreover, the Government has launched a Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC), consisting of retailers, farming unions, consumer, hospitality and environmental bodies from across the UK, and chaired by a food safety expert, which will produce a report on the impact on animal welfare and agriculture arising from each new free trade deal. The Trade Bill will place the TAC on a statutory footing.
Future trade deals, like all international agreements, will be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny. They must be laid before Parliament for 21 sitting days, with explanation of the treaty’s provisions and the reasons for seeking ratification; and if Parliament does not approve, it can resolve against ratification and indefinitely delay any legislation necessary to implement the agreement. The TAC will submit its report at the start of the 21-day scrutiny period.