Trade Negotiations: North of England Small-scale Farming

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons on 25th June 2020.

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Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

What steps he is taking to protect small-scale farming in the north of England in trade negotiations.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We are clear that any future trade agreements must work for both our farmers and consumers. This week, DEFRA and the Department for International Trade have jointly announced a package of measures to help food and drink businesses grow their trade overseas. The package is aimed in particular at small businesses, which make up 97% of the food and drink industry. This will benefit businesses across the UK, including those in the north of England. We will always stand up for British farming and we will use our negotiations to make new opportunities for our businesses large and small.

Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

As lockdown eases, many of my constituents are once again enjoying the glorious Northumbrian and County Durham landscapes. That depends on farmers small in scale but with really high production standards, whether it be for the cattle they graze on the town moor, or the sheep on the Cheviots, or the grain sold through local co-operatives such as Tynegrain. Why will the Minister not commit to writing into law that we do not import food with lower standards than those that our farmers already meet, so that they are not undercut by the American agro-industrial complex?

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Secretary of State has already answered that in some detail. As my right hon. Friend set out. a range of measures are available to protect the hon. Lady’s farmers, including existing regulations. We have great transparency in this House and with the general public in our trade negotiations. There is a great deal of scrutiny of exactly how those negotiations are taking place, and they will be put before the House again before they are signed. We also have a further range of measures—we will be consulting in detail on labelling before the end of the year—which are all designed to protect her farmers.