Peers have slammed the government for not enshrining into law important matters on food and animal welfare standards ahead of Brexit.
It comes as minister come under fresh pressure to ensure the law prevents standards being watered down by post-Brexit trade deals.
The Conservative Party was elected on a manifesto which committed to ‘not compromise’ on the UK’s ‘high’ environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards in ‘all our trade negotiations’.
But peers continued to voice concerns and pressed for guarantees to be included in the Agriculture Bill, which sets out new policy as the UK quits the EU-wide Common Agricultural Policy.
Labour argued the legislation must include a requirement for agricultural and food imports to meet domestic standards.
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Speaking on day seven of the bill’s committee stage, shadow environment minister Lord Grantchester said: ‘The simplest way to decide this matter is by enshrining the UK’s position here in law.
‘The Conservative voters that read the Conservative Party manifesto can be forgiven for thinking this is what they were going to get when they voted to ‘get Brexit done’.
‘The Conservative government is happy to enshrine Brexit twice in legislation.
‘The Conservative government is happy to enshrine the position on Huawei into law.
‘It is happy to do it again on the wearing of face masks.
‘I’d welcome the minister’s U-turn on the matter of food standards as well, as soon as he can make it.’
Conservative Baroness McIntosh of Pickering earlier welcomed the launch of the Trade and Agriculture Commission by the government but called for a permanent body to make recommendations.
She said the government has confirmed Britain will not lower its standards, adding: ‘But I make a plea to the minister that we need fair competition and a level playing field.
‘We need to give our farmers an assurance that they will not be undercut by imports of substandard farm produce and that their good husbandry will be recognised.’
Lady McIntosh said it would be a ‘perverse situation’ for British farmers to meet the country’s high standards of trade and welfare but to be potentially ‘undercut’ by imports.
Green Party peer Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb warned that trade deals were a threat to standards and protections were needed in law to ensure standards were not undermined.
She said she was terrified that the government, ‘desperate’ to secure a US trade deal, would give into the Americans on standards.
Labour former cabinet minister Lord Hain said ‘so desperate are the Brexiteers to declare UDI (unilateral declaration of independence) from the EU that they are prepared to prostrate themselves at the door of Donald Trump’s America-first trade and sell-out our farmers while turning a blind eye to environmental degradation and poor animal welfare standards’.
Lord Hain said the Brexiteers’ ‘sacred cow’ of sovereignty would not prevent Washington using its ‘superior economic weight’ to set the terms of any deal with the UK, leaving farmers faced with being undercut by ‘cheap, poorer quality’ US food imports.
After the recess campaigners are hoping for a stand-off between the House of Lords and Commons to protect the NHS from a post-Brexit trade deal.