Liz Truss must beef up 'toothless' new trade body

Liz Truss must beef up ‘toothless’ new trade body to avoid ‘selling out’ British farmers in the rush to secure post-Brexit deals, campaigners warn

  • People think there is ‘limited protection against cheap, low-quality food imports’
  • The advisory body trade and agriculture commission was launched last month
  • There have also been protests that the commission will report to Parliament 

Liz Truss is being urged to bolster the powers of a new trade body to avoid ‘selling out’ British farmers in the rush to land post-Brexit deals.

The Minister faces warnings that her ‘toothless’ trade and agriculture commission offers just limited protection against cheap, low-quality food imports flooding the country.

She launched the advisory body a month ago but announced that it would only function for six months – sparking criticism that it will not be around to scrutinise any actual trade agreements in detail. 

There have also been protests that the commission will only report directly to Ms Truss, not Parliament.

The Minister (pictured) faces warnings that her ‘toothless’ trade and agriculture commission offers just limited protection against cheap, low-quality food imports flooding the country

However the House of Lords is poised to vote on legislation to boost its powers, its lifespan and its influence next month. 

Last night the International Trade Secretary signalled that she did not believe changes were needed – raising the prospect of a Tory backbench rebellion if the Government refuses to accept the peers’ proposals.

Farmers hope a robust trade commission will offer a line of defence against ‘unsafe’, cheaper food, such as hormone-fed beef and chlorinated chicken, coming into the UK under a trade deal with Washington.

One campaigner privately said last night: ‘This is about the Government proving it will not sell out British farmers and top-quality UK food to seal a trade deal.’

Cross-bench peer Lord Curry is behind the amendment to the Agriculture Bill which will call for the trade body to operate ‘potentially for the remainder of this Parliament’ – until 2024 – to act as a watchdog on post-Brexit trade deals as they are negotiated.

Lord Curry, who praised The Mail on Sunday’s Save Our Family Farms campaign, said: ‘The commission needs to have much more authority and influence than it currently has. 

‘Not only should it establish the standards by which imported food should be judged for trade deals, it should continue in existence and scrutinise those deals.’

Former farmer Lord Curry also raised fears that the trade commission could simply be ignored by Ministers and wants to give the body more power by requiring it to report directly to Parliament.

Sources said Lord Curry’s amendment was likely to be passed.

Senior Tory MP Neil Parish, chairman of the Commons’ Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, said Lord Curry’s plan seemed ‘eminently sensible’.

Mr Parish added that extending the commission ‘for the length of this Parliament, and having it report to Parliament, will give MPs and the public real confidence the issue is being taken seriously by the powers that be’.

Allies of Ms Truss, who has repeatedly insisted that the Government will not abandon the UK’s high food standards, said: ‘Liz doesn’t think this is the right approach.’ But they added: ‘We want Britain’s trade policy to protect and advance the interests of farmers.’

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