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NFU expert insight: Food standards and trade policy explained

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Ahead of another crucial vote in the House of Commons on the Agriculture Bill, NFU director of international trade and business strategy Nick von Westenholz has been reflecting on some of the complexities surrounding the legalities of food standards and trade policy.

The Agriculture Bill is currently in the ‘Ping Pong’ stage of the legislative process, where neither the Commons or the Lords agree on the amendments to the Bill. The Bill passes back and forth until agreement is reached.

The Bill returns to the Commons on 4 November, where MPs will be voting on two amendments, one tabled by Lord Curry and one by Lord Grantchester.

Here we analyse the detail behind three common misconceptions on food standards and highlights why the NFU is continuing to campaign on the importance of future trade deals and ensuring Britain’s farmers are not undermined by imports of food that are produced to lower production standards.

1. Standards are already safeguarded in law

The idea that our food standards are already safeguarded in law in the the EU Withdrawal Act, is only partially true.

The fact that the EU Withdrawal Act has already transferred protections against ‘chlorinated chicken’ and ‘Hormone-injected beef’ is often stated in reference to our standards already being safeguarded in law. This assertion relates to our current SPS (Sanitary and Phytosanitary) protections and it is correct that both chicken or beef produced with these methods cannot be marketed in the UK. After January that will still be the case. Therefore legal safeguards will remain, and imports of these products will not be allowed.

However, public concerns are often over production standards (e.g. animal welfare and environmental sustainability) whereas the regulations and bans we are given reassurances about are


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