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  • The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has been campaigning for the Government to set up a ‘trade and standards commission’ to “ensure the UK’s future trade policy does not undermine British farming’s high environmental and animal welfare standards”.
  • Michael Gove, the then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said in February 2019 that he welcomed the NFU’s call to establish a commission.
  • Minette Batters, the NFU President, has urged Theresa Villiers, who succeeded Mr Gove as secretary of state, to follow up on his commitment to the proposed trade and standards commission.
  • The NFU and more than 60 other farming, environmental, animal welfare and public health organisations wrote to the Prime Minister at the end of January 2020, calling for formal processes to allow Government and stakeholders to engage on the issue of trade and standards. The letter suggested the Agriculture Bill, which is currently before the House of Commons, provided a good opportunity to enshrine some key standards in law.
  • There are fears that future trade deals could open UK markets to agri-food products produced to lower standards in other countries. For example, the question of whether a trade deal with the US would allow chlorinated chicken, produced to lower animal welfare standards, to be imported into the UK has received a great deal of attention.
  • The Conservative manifesto for the 2019 general election said that British farmers and fishermen should be “able to profit by producing food and fish that are the envy of the world—both for their high quality and the standards to which they were produced”. It said Brexit created the opportunity for Britain to “lead the world in the quality of our food, agriculture and land management”. The manifesto promised that “in all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards”.
  • In a recent statement setting out the UK’s priorities for future trade deals, Liz Truss, the International Trade Secretary, made the same promise about maintaining high standards in these areas.

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