This gives the clearest signal yet that the Government do not intend to uphold their election manifesto commitment to not compromise the UK’s high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards in trade negotiations.
The Agriculture Bill will ping-pong between the Commons and the Lords over the next week.
This is bad news for consumers, British farmers and for nature’s recovery in the UK. It’s not just about the threat of chlorinated chicken. Lowering food standards affects wildlife’s ability to thrive in this country because the US, Australia and India allow chemicals to be used on farms that are banned in the UK. In order to compete, British farmers will end up having to go down the same route. This will seriously affect nature across the British countryside at a time when wildlife has already suffered huge declines.
If last night’s vote is sustained, it will result in a ‘race to the bottom’ in welfare and environmental practices and there’s every likelihood that many British farmers will start to use the chemicals used by these countries – but which are banned in the EU because of their impact on insect populations.
Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts says:
“The Agriculture Bill should be at the heart of ensuring that nature can recover in this country. We live in one of the most nature-depleted places on the planet and it’s vital that British farmers be encouraged to adopt nature-friendly farming across agricultural land which covers nearly three-quarters of the UK. It is not too late for the Government to enshrine their manifesto commitment to uphold high environmental standards in law.”
Another potential rebellion by backbench Tory MPs was avoided by the Government when the deputy speaker ruled out an amendment to strengthen the new Trade and Agriculture Commission. The Wildlife Trusts are disappointed by this because it would have ensured the independence, legitimacy and remit it needs to scrutinise trade agreements.