Amendment 236A

Part of Agriculture Bill - Committee (6th Day) – in the House of Lords at 9:30 pm on 23rd July 2020.

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Photo of Lord Tyler Lord Tyler Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Constitutional and Political Reform) 9:30 pm, 23rd July 2020

My Lords, I confine my remarks to Amendment 263 in my name and those of my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace, my noble friend Lord Bruce and the noble Lord, Lord Holmes.

This new clause seeks to secure exactly equal protection for traditional speciality food and drink products, for which the UK is famous and which have such economic benefits for particular areas, as is currently enjoyed under the EU geographical indications scheme. I am sure that there is shared enthusiasm in every part of the Committee for the success of this excellent scheme, not least since it was extended as a result of the initiative of British Ministers during the coalition Government.

I know that the Minister will be able to assure us that the protection of these products can continue within the UK. However, that is not the issue in question. I asked the then Minister for International Trade during Committee stage of the Trade Bill on 23 January 2019 for an explicit assurance that the GI protection would continue on exactly the same terms—that is, outside the UK—and was told that an amendment was unnecessary because this would be secured. In view of the vagueness of that promise, I repeated an amendment on Report on 6 March 2019 and withdrew it only when a firmer assurance was given.

Now it would seem that there may be another broken Brexit promise. According to newspaper reports:

“Cornish pasties could soon be made in France and still be called ‘Cornish’ after British Brexit negotiators failed to secure the same guarantees for British products in the EU … British officials argue that the Withdrawal Agreement calls for the current arrangement for existing GIs to be superseded by a free trade agreement.”

This threat becomes ever more alarming if, as the latest news of failing negotiations makes all too likely, we end up with the disaster of a no-deal outcome in just five months’ time. The dogmatic insistence of No. 10 to row back on even their very limited withdrawal agreement puts yet another obstacle in the path of British food and drink producers. The failure of the UK negotiators could result in a ludicrous situation in which proper Cornish pasties cannot be marketed from Cardiff, Cumbernauld or Cambridge but can be sold as Cornish by manufacturers in Cologne or Calais. Indeed, without any protection from the EU scheme and with no involvement in EU trade agreements in future, they could be passed off as Cornish in Canberra, Calgary or Cambridge, Massachusetts or in Truro in that same state.

I am, of course, especially exercised by the threat to genuine Cornish pasties, clotted cream and sparkling wine but my noble friends will be examining the effect on world-famous Scottish products. Others will argue for Melton Mowbray pies or Stilton cheese. This is a major issue. To add injury to insult, we are told that the Trump trade deal that No. 10 is so desperate for will require abandoning origin labelling. From the point of view of consumers, that will make matters worse. As other Peers have indicated, the whole labelling issue is contentious. While Champagne and Parma ham will continue to enjoy protection in Britain, failure to secure exactly the same reciprocal arrangements for our equally important speciality products in the EU and beyond would be completely unacceptable. I hope that Ministers will agree.