A report from Patricia Gibson, MP for North Ayrshire and Arran
Last week, I challenged Tory MP John Lamont in the Commons on National Farmers Union (NFU) fears and those of consumers, about the threat to food standards and safety. I was astounded when he responded that the NFU “is spreading misinformation” about this important matter and the prospect of substandard, low quality food imports flooding the UK market and undercutting our excellent quality produce following a trade deal with America.
More than a million people pledged their support for UK farming and food production by signing the NFU’s petition urging the UK Government to ensure future trade deals do not lead to imports of food it would be illegal to produce here.
Scotland has a world-leading reputation for high-quality food production; a sector which is one of the best performing in our economy. Over the last decade, food exports have more than doubled and sales of Scottish brands in the UK have risen by over 40%.
Our reputation is founded on provenance, quality and high standards of production, food safety, environmental protection and animal welfare. We have stringent food safety standards protecting consumers and helping our producers.
A no-deal Brexit from 01 January 2021 poses a serious threat to these standards and the livelihoods of Scottish farmers, who it’s becoming increasingly clear the Tories are prepared to abandon these where necessary to secure post-Brexit trade deals.
I first raised concerns about this in September 2017. The Tories subsequently pledged not to compromise on our high food standards after Brexit, a commitment they have obviously abandoned. I again raised this matter at Westminster last week and presented a petition calling for an extension of the transition period and a Food Standards Commission with a remit to ensure the quality of food and drink imports.
The UK Tory Government has refused to introduce proper safeguards to protect food standards after the UK leaves the European Union (EU). SNP MPs repeatedly urge UK Ministers not to sell out domestic producers and food manufacturers, many of whom already face an unprecedented threat to future operations. Scotland’s high-quality food producers must not be undercut by cheaper, substandard imports. Lowering standards in the pursuit of trade deals will only damage food production and potentially impact public health and is opposed by 72% of the population.
As Consumer rights organisation Which? Has stated, if we leave the EU without a deal, we will trade on World Trade Organisation terms. Trading under such circumstances, risks opening our markets up to such delights as chlorinated chicken and hormone injected beef, with our devolved parliaments unable to stop it, due to such powers being reserved to Westminster. That would be completely unacceptable.
The Tories also failed to set out the role of the UKs devolved parliaments in the Bill which makes provision for post-Brexit trade deals.
The Scottish Parliament needs the powers to protect our premium food and drink industry. It is important that, as agriculture in Scotland and across the UK adapts to life outside the EU, current high standards in animal welfare, plant hygiene and food quality are not only maintained but continually improve.
The SNP Government is committed to keeping pace with EU standards on food, animal welfare and the environment. The Tories have proven time and again that they cannot be trusted to stand up for Scotland’s farmers or food and drink industries while SNP MPs will continue to oppose any attempt to weaken import standards in any future trade deal.
It is time for Tory MPs who are elected to represent Scotland’s communities stand up for our farmers, high quality produce and, ultimately, public health.
VIDEO CLIP SHOWING TORY MP DISMISSING NATIONAL FARMERS UNION FOR SPREADING “MISINFORMATION”: