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Brexit trade deals 'still on,' says MP

DESPITE the Covid-19 emergency, the UK Government remains firmly focused behind the scenes on securing game-changing Brexit trade deals. That was the assurance of Scottish Secretary Alister Jack this week as he explained why he voted against an unsuccessful amendment in the Agriculture Bill aimed at preventing sub-standard food imports. The Dumfries and Galloway MP, along with five Scottish Conservative colleagues, opposed the move at Westminster last Wednesday on the grounds it could prove an unnecessary distraction during forthcoming trade negotiations. Mr Jack said: "The fact is we will not compromise on the UK's high animal and food safety standards. They are one of the factors which should help us grow the quality market for our produce around the world. "Scotland's farmers will benefit from the trade deals we plan to sign which will work for consumers, farmers and other businesses." Mr Jack added that the UK was working to maintain existing import standards in such areas as environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety, ensuring fair competition for domestic farmers. He added that proposed trade deals, including with the USA, could open the door to many new opportunities for Scottish agriculture and the wider food industry. There has, however, been anger from political opponents about the situation. MSP Colin Smyth, Labour, said: “This amendment would have helped protect the Scottish food and farming sector from sub-standard imports and it is completely shameful that it was voted down. Farmers don't believe the UK Government when they claim they will secure these standards in trade deals with countries such as the USA who will be desperate to flood our supermarkets with food created under lower standards. “This Bill is a very important piece of legislation and without this amendment there is a real fear that the UK market could see a influx of poor quality meat produced at lower environmental, welfare and food safety standards than those we currently have in place in Scotland." And MSP Emma Harper, SNP, said: "“Scotland has some of the highest food quality standards in the world – protecting consumers and helping our farmers and producers across South Scotland and the rest of our nation. “It's bad enough that Tory politicians are willing to open the floodgates to US imports of chlorinated chicken and hormone beef in this grubby backroom trade deal with Donald Trump – but who knows what else we'll be eating if Boris Johnson's mob decide to ditch current standards and sink to the level of America. “It really does make the stomach churn to think of rat hair and rat poo in our food, but that's the gruesome reality we face." The amendment, seeking to ensure only UK equivilent standard imports, was put forward last Wednesday by Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton, but was defeated by 328 votes to 277.

<< back Published: 19 May 2020, 10:12

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