Import of agricultural goods after IP completion day

Part of Agriculture Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:00 pm on 13th May 2020.

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Photo of Julie Marson Julie Marson Conservative, Hertford and Stortford 5:00 pm, 13th May 2020

The Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the future of agriculture in the United Kingdom, including how we farm, how we feed people and how we make farming sustainable for this generation and the next. It also comes at a time when we are fundamentally reassessing our trading relationships across the world, and at a moment of crisis when expansion of our international trade is essential to our recovery and future prosperity. The Bill, as it stands, opens the door for our farmers to the opportunities for growth that international trade brings, and with that it goes some way to addressing the regional imbalance of opportunity and wealth that this Government and I want to focus on.

Farmers in my constituency and across the country already sell exports to Europe worth about £24 billion, and the Bill sets a template for expansion into other regions, which will mean that members of our farming community will be able to compete abroad as never before. They will sell more of what they already sell, and enter new markets so that they can sell more of the same products and new products too. To bring the narrative back to how extending British farming into global markets will directly boost growth, it is just simple maths that growth leads to more jobs, and with that, better jobs. Growth in trade will create new opportunities in places that may have been left behind. It will help to keep local talent at home and attract new talent from afar, and the levelling up of society in every region of Britain will take one more step forward.

I support the aspirations of farmers in Hertford and Stortford who want to sell into foreign markets, and I want farmers and consumers to be clear that I support their desire for the highest food and animal welfare standards, as do the Government. We are leaving the European Union and the CAP, and we must be able to negotiate and sign meaningful trade agreements. We must resist calls for the protectionism that will squander opportunity, and not try to force dynamic alignment from others with us in the UK. Apart from anything else, it was those rigid rules that played a large part in our vote—my vote—to leave the EU, so what message would we be sending if we tried to enforce them ourselves now?

Concerns around the safety and standards of food in the UK have been addressed in the Bill. The same stringent standards that we are all used to and wish to see upheld will still apply to meat sold here, including those that exclude chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef. I want to reassure farmers and consumers in Hertford and Stortford that I will always support the highest environmental standards and celebrate the fact that farmers are the custodians of our wonderful countryside. I support the highest standards of food production and animal welfare here and around the world. I also support a principle of clarity in food labelling, to enable consumers to make informed choices about what products they buy.

I will always champion our wonderful UK farmers, producers and products. I will support the Bill, as I am satisfied that our food standards and safety are protected, and I want to see farmers in my constituency benefit from different markets, more product opportunities and a greater distribution of wealth and opportunity across the country. This is an opportunity to renew British farming and add vigour to our global aspirations. It is an opportunity to secure more resilient food supply chains and set global standards for sustainability through international co-operation and leadership.