United Kingdom

Tory MPs tell Liz Truss to beef up post-Brexit plans to safeguard British farmers from US imports

Boris Johnson has been warned to beef up plans to keep out sub-standard US food imports – or risk letting down British farmers.

Tory MPs say a proposed independent panel to advise on post-Brexit trade deals must have real teeth and not just be a 'talking shop'. 

In a private meeting, they insisted the new 'trade and agriculture' commission – announced last week by International Trade Secretary Liz Truss – must be established on a statutory footing.

Environmental campaigners have welcomed the new body but say it does not go nearly far enough in safeguarding the UK from the products of so-called American mega farms. 

Tory MPs have warned Liz Truss to beef up plans to keep out sub-standard US food imports in the post-Brexit trade deal – or risk letting down British farmers. Liz Truss pictured helping Bill Wiggin with his Hereford cattle herd

It comes after a leading member of Donald Trump's administration fuelled hopes that if Britain stood up to the US over food imports, it could still negotiate a valuable trade deal.

Ben Carson, Secretary of State for Housing and Urban Development, suggested that blocking certain US foodstuffs should not be a deal-breaker. 

He said: 'I suspect there would be further negotiations and some give and take to make sure that things work out.'

Mr Johnson has come under mounting pressure to ensure that British farms and their world-class food standards are not undercut by hormone-fed beef, chlorinated chicken or other controversial US-farmed products as the price for securing a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington.

The Mail on Sunday, which has launched a Save Our Family Farm campaign to protect British businesses and food standards, revealed last month how the Prime Minister is considering keeping out certain US products by imposing prohibitively high tariffs once we finally leave the EU single market.

Mr Johnson has come under pressure to ensure British farms are not undercut by hormone-fed beef, chlorinated chicken or other controversial US-farmed products in a post-Brexit trade deal (file photo)

Miss Truss's plan is for an independent commission to advise on policies that ensure UK farmers 'do not face unfair competition and that their high animal welfare and production standards are not undermined'. 

But at a private meeting with the Prime Minister, Tory MPs who took part in a Commons rebellion in May over the danger to British food standards made clear that Miss Truss's plans did not go far enough.

They welcomed the new body but insisted it must be set up on a statutory footing – meaning that the Government would have to respond formally to its recommendations. 

One MP said: 'It can't just be a panel that issues advice and then gets ignored. The PM was quite receptive to what we were saying.'

Tory MP George Freeman, who was not at the meeting but is urging Ministers to 'stand by our UK food and farming sector', said it was vital the panel was not just a 'talking shop'.

Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers' Union, also urged Miss Truss to set out more details to ensure the commission is effective and independent.

Liz Truss (above) plans for an independent commission to advise on policies that ensure UK farmers 'do not face unfair competition and that their high animal welfare and production standards are not undermined'

And Beccy Speight, chief executive of the RSPB – the UK's largest nature conservation charity – said it must be 'genuinely independent' and be accountable to Parliament, not just Ministers.

She called for 'clear legal guarantees that imports will meet our environmental standards'.

'Anything less than this and we would be selling our farmers and our wildlife short at a time when many of our iconic farmland birds like lapwings and skylarks are starting to disappear from our countryside,' she added.

'Exposing British farming to competition from American-style mega farms and harmful pesticides would have a devastating impact on any hope of nature's recovery.'

Government sources said the commission's detailed terms of reference had yet to be agreed. But allies of Miss Truss stressed she had already vowed the Government would never lower its foods standards to get a trade deal.

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