December 3, 2022

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Farmers and activists call for ‘level playing field’ in UK trade deals

2 min read

Farming and environmental groups are demanding guarantees from the UK government that it will maintain a “level playing field” for food and animal welfare standards in future post-Brexit trade deals.

A broad coalition of more than 10 lobby groups have called for Prime Minister Liz Truss’s new government to avoid a repeat of recent trade deals with Australia and New Zealand, which they said could undercut UK farmers and put consumers at risk.

In a letter sent to international trade secretary Kemi Badenoch ahead of the Conservative party conference that starts in Birmingham on Sunday, they warned that the Australian deal left British farmers competing with imported food “produced to standards that would be illegal in the UK”. 

The signatories, including the National Farmers’ Union, WWF and the Greener UK coalition, said the government must develop a set of minimum product standards to “ensure imports do not undermine domestic standards”.

The call for the UK trade department to sign up to a level playing-field follows a bitter row over the Australian deal signed by Truss’s predecessor Boris Johnson in June 2021, which was hailed as a success by Brexiters but heavily criticised as an overhasty sellout by farming and conservation groups.

NFU president Minette Batters said the deal was “one-sided” and a “betrayal” of British farmers, who faced being undercut by massive Australian producers that had been granted access to UK markets.

Minette Batters: ‘We need a proper process involving all stakeholders to achieve this that goes beyond merely warm words’ © Simon Hadley/Alamy

The pressure groups’ fresh demand for formal protections comes as the Truss administration is closing in on a new trade deal with India this autumn and is preparing to complete its accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Shaun Spiers, chair of Greener UK, a coalition of 12 conservation groups, said the government had “effectively approved the import of…

2022-10-02 08:36:18

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