A fight to ensure post-Brexit food imports will match the UK’s high food and environmental standards has been taken up in the House of Lords.
While the UK Government has pledged not to compromise on existing rules as part of future trade deals, opponents have argued it should be written into law.
Peers have said they will seek to change the Agriculture Bill to guarantee welfare standards are not negotiated away. It comes after a similar bid by Tory rebels failed when the legislation went through the House of Commons.
Opening the Bill’s second reading debate, Rural Affairs Minister Lord Gardiner of Kimble sought to reassure peers that the government was “alive to the issue of trade standards”.
He referred to a recent letter in which both Environment Secretary George Eustice and International Trade Secretary Liz Truss insisted the government remained “firmly committed to upholding our high environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards outside the EU”.
But responding, Labour frontbencher Lord Grantchester said: “For agriculture to thrive, for the countryside to be enhanced, food standards must underpin the provision of the Bill and be maintained.” Tory peer Baroness McIntosh of Pickering warned of the risk of “inferior imports not produced to our high standards”. She argued that existing regulations could be changed by secondary legislation signed off by ministers.
The Bill received an unopposed second reading and now goes for line-by-line scrutiny in committee.