Thank you for contacting me regarding protecting our food standards. I am privileged to represent the farming community of the island in Parliament and am determined to ensure that wherever food is produced, it is to the highest standards for all people of Great Britain.
The Trade Bill cannot be used to implement new free trade agreements. It can only be used to roll-over the free trade agreements that the UK has been party to through EU membership. My Ministerial colleagues have no intention of lowering standards in transitioned trade agreements, as their purpose is to replicate the effects of commitments in EU agreements. You will be pleased to hear that none of the 20 continuity agreements signed have resulted in standards being lowered.
Although future trade agreements are outside the scope of the Trade Bill, the Government has made a clear commitment to uphold the UK’s high animal welfare, environmental, food safety and food import standards in any future free trade agreement. I welcome the creation of the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) to advise the Secretary of State on protecting these standards. The TAC will be put on a statutory footing and will produce a report, to be laid in Parliament at the start of each 21-day scrutiny period, on whether free trade agreements are consistent with domestic levels of protection for animal and plant life, animal welfare and the environment. Widening the scope of TAC to include public health risks wasteful duplication with existing groups, and could potentially overwhelm TAC, preventing it from fulfilling its obligations. Issues such as public health are multifactoral.
With regards to scrutiny of future trade agreements, these are not ratified until domestic legislation has been implemented. Public consultations will be held prior to negotiations to inform the Government’s approach and MPs will be briefed. Regular updates will be provided to Parliament and select committees will get 10 sitting days to examine the texts of trade deals. I believe that this is a balanced approach which respects the UK Constitution, whilst ensuring Parliament is able to effectively scrutinise trade policy.
Thank you again for writing to me.