International Trade policy should champion ‘world class’ British standards abroad

Championing free trade and backing British farming do not have to be mutually exclusive, trade body says
Sheep and lambs in field
Sheep and lambs together

The UK’s agricultural standards show Britain at its best says the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), an organisation representing 28,000 land managers and rural businesses in England and Wales.

Responding to media reports of the UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement, the CLA argued that the UK is right to seek a comprehensive agreement with Australia – but calls for:

- Provisions to guarantee imports will meet the same environmental and animal welfare standards as in the UK

- TRQs (Tariff rate quotas) for sensitive agricultural products

Zero tariffs and zero quotas on agricultural imports would not just leave British farmers exposed, it shows that the UK Government doesn’t understand one of our biggest strengths

CLA President Mark Bridgeman

CLA President Mark Bridgeman said:

“A false narrative has emerged that being pro-free trade and supporting British farming are mutually exclusive.

“British food producers can look with excitement at selling their world class products to new markets – and Government should be unrelenting in championing their interests in breaking down barriers to growing UK exports.

“But we should also accept that it is perfectly normal for certain protections to be in place for key industries. Even the most liberal free trading nations place some restrictions on imports, and to do otherwise would make us a global outlier – making us appear a touch naïve in the process.

“Zero tariffs and zero quotas on agricultural imports would not just leave British farmers exposed, it shows that the UK Government doesn’t understand one of our biggest strengths.

“The UK has some of the highest environmental and animal welfare standards in the world. Emissions from British beef, for example, are half those of the global average. This is true British leadership that we should be proud of. By allowing imports produced to standards not allowed in this country, not only are we exposing our farmers to unfair competition; we are saying that, ultimately, these standards aren’t so important after all. That’s the wrong message, and one that would be heard loud and clear by other exporting nations looking to sell into the UK.

“Where Liz Truss is right, is that we of course should be able to strike a high quality deal with Australia, one of our closest partners. But where I think the Department for International Trade has more to do is recognising our strengths as a nation, and ensuring there are robust safeguards in place for key industries.”

Key contact:

Jonathan Roberts
Jonathan Roberts Director of External Affairs