Clause 4 - Multi-annual financial assistance plans

Part of Agriculture Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 12th October 2020.

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Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 6:30 pm, 12th October 2020

Oh dear. I remain very fond of my hon. Friend, who continues to tempt me, Madam Deputy Speaker, down routes that we really do not need to go down in discussing this legislation—indeed, we are all busily debating amendment 18 as if it were before us.

To return to what we are meant to be talking about, if amendments 12 and 16 remained in the Bill, they could create a long list of new conditions that imports under trade agreements would have to meet. Such conditions do not exist under any agreement that the UK or the EU have to date, and they could also apply to trade already taking place, which we very much hope will be the subject of roll-over deals.

We will drive a hard bargain for access to our market, and existing import conditions will need to be respected. However, trading partners would be extremely unlikely to agree to all the potential new requirements in the amendments. The amendments are also not totally clear on what we would be asking of our partners. For example, what is relevant to protect the environment in the UK will surely not be what is relevant to other countries with different climates or conditions. From rules on nitrates to rules on hedgerows, our standards are sometimes bound to differ from those abroad.

Given that uncertainty, I am concerned that the amendments could jeopardise the 19 currently unsigned agreements that we are seeking to roll over. Trade, of course, already takes place under those agreements, with existing import requirements met. Unpicking those and demanding the numerous extra conditions in the amendments could upset the current deals if partners refused and walked away. In the worst-case scenario, that could affect whisky exports to Canada, worth £96 million, potato exports to Egypt, worth £30 million, and milk powder exports to Algeria, worth £21 million.