Bitter disappointment at agriculture Bill vote

Andrew McCornick, NFUS president

NFU Scotland has described the result of last night’s vote in the House of Commons on amendments to the Agriculture Bill as a bitterly disappointing outcome for Scottish farmers and crofters and the public.

Despite the UK Government’s assurances and its own manifesto commitment that it will not compromise our high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection, it did not back a new clause in last night’s debate in Parliament that would have enshrined these principles in law.  

Instead, it chose to overturn a large majority of support in the Lords for an amendment that would have upheld the requirement that future trade deals must not curtail our ability to grow our reputation for quality food and drink by undercutting domestic production with imports produced to standards that would be illegal or unacceptable here.

The amendment would have not only provided safeguards for domestic producers but would have provided the government with enough flexibility to avoid unintended barriers to rolling over existing trade arrangements or ensuring imports from developing countries were not adversely affected.

Having also secured significant support within the House of Lords for a further clause which would have ensured more appropriate governance and scrutiny of trade negotiations for MPs and the Department for International Trade’s Trade and Agriculture Commission, NFU Scotland was equally disappointed that this sensible and pragmatic amendment was not selected for a vote due to compatibility issues with the Bill’s agreed Money Resolution.  

With the principle behind this clause receiving significant support in the Commons last night, NFU Scotland’s resolve is strengthened to explore further opportunities to ensure these vital principles are re-considered and attention now turns back to the House of Lords as to whether a redrafted amendment could be brought forward at this late stage.

Scrutiny, accountability and transparency in trade negotiations are vital principles for NFU Scotland.

NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said: “NFU Scotland has consistently argued that new trade agreements are a major opportunity for Scottish agriculture. We pride ourselves on provenance and quality: herein lies the opportunity.

“Farmers, crofters and growers in Scotland must be enabled by the current and future governments to reach a thriving export market in a manner which builds on our existing, world-leading standards of production.

“This ambition goes hand-in-glove with the UK Government’s own manifesto commitment not to compromise the UK’s standards of animal welfare and environmental protection. For this reason, NFU Scotland and the vast majority of our members are bitterly disappointed that the amendment was not supported.  It is an ambition that has received unprecedented levels of public support and celebrity endorsement, which we welcome.

“I will continue to advocate at every turn to ensure that Scottish and UK standards of production are considered in the negotiation of new and other trade agreements.  I firmly believe that is what the public wish to see.” 

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