Farmers voice concerns government could ‘undermine’ food standards in Brexit talks

National Farmer's Union president Minette Batters. Photograph: Sonya Duncan

National Farmer's Union president Minette Batters. Photograph: Sonya Duncan /Archant. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) is insisting that countries that want to trade with the UK must do so 'on our terms', following concerns it will 'undermine' food standards in Brexit talks.

At the NFU's annual conference in Birmingham NFU president Minette Batters will reiterate a warning that imported food should not be allowed to undercut the standards that UK farmers have to meet on animal welfare, food safety and the environment.

She is warning there is a "gulf" between the standards British producers have to meet and a lack of equivalent regulation elsewhere in the world.

In her speech, Batters will say: "For the first time in decades, this country has the opportunity to shape a trade, immigration and agricultural policy which will define our country for decades to come.

"This year the government must show global leadership, insist that UK farm standards are the benchmark for climate-friendly farming around the world and that whoever wants to trade with us, trades on our terms.

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"We must not allow those standards to be undermined by imports of goods which would be illegal for our farmers to produce here."

Farmers say abattoirs in other parts of the world use chlorine or other chemicals to wash carcasses, which British producers cannot do as they have legislation on the way livestock is kept that stops animals such as chickens being crammed too closely together.

MORE: Minister suggests he'd eat chlorinated chicken if it appears on supermarket shelves

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There are rules in the UK on lighting, diet, preventing disease spread and checks by vets while in the US and other countries there are no national controls on what Britain considers to be fundamental welfare requirements, Batters warns.

Countries such as Japan, Brazil and Australia allow antibiotics to promote growth, she says.

She will warn: "This isn't just about chlorinated chicken. This is about a wider principle.

"We must not tie the hands of British farmers to the highest rung of the standards ladder while waving through food imports which may not even reach the bottom rung.

"If the government is serious about animal welfare and environmental protection, and doing more than any previous government, it must put legislation in the Agriculture Bill. What is government waiting for? What is more important to our economy, our health and our environment than the very food that we eat?"

It comes as the European Union was reportedly preparing to make chlorinated chicken a 'red line' in its trade talk negotiations with the United Kingdom.

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