Import of agricultural goods after IP completion day

Part of Agriculture Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 13th May 2020.

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Photo of Marcus Fysh Marcus Fysh Conservative, Yeovil 4:45 pm, 13th May 2020

I support the Bill overall. I think it is great for agriculture. It is a landmark Bill, and I thank my local National Farmers Union and local farmers for the engagement I have had with them over many months now.

I do, however, want to speak against new clauses 1 and 2, for which some NFU representatives have been encouraging MPs to vote. While there are good intentions—clearly I want to do what I can to support and help create opportunities for farmers up and down the country, including in south Somerset—the new clauses would in fact be damaging to their long-term interests and the long-term interests of the country. I will say a few things about the reasons for that and address some of the things that my hon. Friend Simon Hoare said. He said that he wanted us to be a beacon for standards around the world, and I agree with him, but I believe that we can champion higher standards much better if we are not a trade pariah, which we would be regarded as if we banned imports on a blanket basis, as the new clauses would effect. I am also, as is my hon. Friend, pro consumer safety, and it is important to understand that we will not be reducing import standards. We will have the Food Safety Agency to ensure that our products are safe and that our consumers are kept safe.

I am pro farmers’ opportunities, and we have a lot of scope to increase the work that the Government can do to help farmers to market their products and develop new innovative products. I understand that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is looking at a new grant scheme to help with some of that. There are also the opportunities from trade itself, which are large. My hon. Friend said that he was pro food security, and I also support such a thing, but part of that is about having diversified supply chains, and that is exactly what would be damaged by the new clauses, which could effectively create a blanket ban on imports at the whim of the Government or of a food safety agency. I do not think that is in our interests either.

The bottom line is that we are not going to let standards slide, as the shadow Minister said was his fear. In fact, my right hon. Friend Dr Fox made the point that our high standards are often a very good marketing feature for our export products around the rest of the world. Being able to do these deals around the rest of the world is critical. At the end of the day, the new clauses, if passed, would interfere with our ability to sign new trade deals and to roll over the existing ones that we have with the EU. It would put us outside of the scope of our WTO agreements, and we would be that trade pariah.

I will finish by saying a couple of things. My neighbour and hon. Friend Neil Parish said that he wanted lots of US exports. That simply would not happen under a trade deal, as he said he wanted, if the new clauses were agreed, because there would not be a trade deal.

Finally I want to address my hon. Friend Dr Hudson. He had heartening faith in our trade negotiators, and I agree that we have some great trade negotiators who will fight hard for us and for our farmers. I will do what I can to aid the negotiators in that process of fighting for farmers, but I am afraid that however good they are, if the new clauses passed into law their ability would not make any difference; there would simply be no trade deals with any other nation. With that, I thank all the farmers of south Somerset for their support through this process.