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Liz Truss urged to let parliament ‘take back control’ with Brexit trade deal scrutiny

International trade secretary Liz Truss. Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images

MPs have written to Liz Truss demanding parliamentary scrutiny of the government’s post-Brexit trade deal with Australia.

A series of MPs, representing all four nations, have written to the international trade secretary amid concerns that the deal could negatively affect the country’s farmers and put them out of business.

In the letter, which was coordinated by pro-internationalist campaign group Best for Britain, MPs caution that “no one wants to see our farming communities in Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland undermined for the sake of a politically expedient trade deal.”

It has received cross-party support, including signatures from Conservative MPs Roger Gale and Dan Poulter, Labour MP Hilary Benn, DUP MP Paul Girvan and SNP MP Philippa Whitford. 

They warn that providing tariff-free, zero quota access to the UK agricultural market will undercut UK farmers. They add that “the importing of products derived from conditions, agricultural practices and hormone treatments banned in the UK is not acceptable.”

Instead, they call for the finalised text of the agreement to be scrutinised in parliament before it is signed and ratified. The group of 24 MPs also demanded that assessments must be carried out across investigating how the deal will affect regions and nations of the UK and the agriculture sector. 

This comes after recent polling from Best for Britain found that more than six in ten people believe that protecting British farmers should take priority over new trade deals with countries such as Australia. 

The cross-party UK Trade and Business Commission, established by Best for Britain has also been investigating how leaving the bloc has affected veterinary issues including animal farming. Representatives from the food industry expressed that current checks are costing them up to £1,000 per lorry load of goods, due to the extra paperwork involved.

Experts also warned that if the UK diverged from EU food standards further, such as in trade deals with Australia, more taxing checks could be implemented in the long-term.

“The public and MPs from every nation in the UK are united on this issue,” said Roger Gale, the Conservative MP who sits on the UK Trade and Business Commission. They all agree that we must not allow our food standards to be lowered or farming communities to be sold out in a trade deal with Australia.”

He continued: “Parliament must be given the time to properly scrutinise this deal if and when it is reached. We need to hold the government to account and ensure the promises that have been made to the electorate are kept.”

Hilary Benn MP, chair of the UK Trade and Business Commission commented that “the prime minister has just spent the weekend arguing with our closest allies about a treaty that he pushed through parliament with limited scrutiny.

“This highlights the risks of rushing through deals for short-term political gain while failing to understand the long-term consequences.”

Naomi Smith, chief executive of Best for Britain, added that “a deal that will affect millions of people cannot be made on a nod and a wink.”

She explained that “Britain must continue to lead on standards around the world and any dilution of that in this deal will set a dangerous precedent for future agreements with other countries like India and the USA.”

A Department for International Trade spokesperson previously told this newspaper: “We have always been clear parliament will be able to scrutinise Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) following signature, rather than at the stage where agreement in principle is reached.

“The Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) advice will form part of this scrutiny process for future FTAs, including the proposed FTA with Australia. Our scrutiny processes are among the most robust and transparent in the world.”