Starmer to promise British farmers that a Labour government will 'remove barriers to exporters'

Mon 20 Feb 2023
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

labour

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will promise farmers a closer trading relationship with the EU and to protect high British food standards, claiming that the Conservative government has “given up on farmers”.

Speaking to the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) tomorrow, Starmer will say that British farmers will be prioritised and standards upheld under a Labour government.

Removing barriers

The Guardian reports that Starmer will say Labour’s approach to trade will be different from the Conservative government’s and it will seek a better trading relationship with the EU for British farming.

“We want to remove barriers to exporters, not put them up. We want to protect high British standards, not water them down,” he said.

He will also promise to look at the unfair supply chain, where farmers make less than a penny an item for supermarket staples such as bread and cheese.

British grown

According to the Independent, Starmer will promise that Labour will ensure that up to 30% of food bought by government is British, and 20% is highly sustainable.

As previously reported in the IOE&IT Daily Update, Labour has looked to spell out its foreign policy, including normalising its relationship with the EU short of re-joining the bloc, single market or customs union. The party has also promised to put ‘green exports’ high on its agenda should it win the next general election.

The NFU has lobbied against the UK’s recent trade deals, such as the one struck with Australia, saying that the terms agreed could undercut British farmers.

Food check gap

Also in the Guardian, NFU president, Minette Batters has said Britain faces a “disastrous” food scandal owing to lax post-Brexit border controls on agricultural imports. She said the county has failed to learn from the horsemeat scandal of 2013.

“We are seeing little to no checks on imports that are coming in from the EU,” she said. “We have the massive risk of African swine fever in Europe, and to not be investing in our defences for keeping our biosecurity and animal and plant health safe, I think is just a dereliction of duty.”

The threat could grow much worse under trade deals with non-EU nations, she added.

Environmental deficit

Meanwhile, Scottish Farmer columnist, Richard Wright claimed Brexit has reduced the political influence of farming in the UK, while denying the country the levers it previously had to secure a balance between food production and environmental goals. 

“We are still following the same agricultural policies as the EU, but making them even greener with less funding – and politicians have shown no interest in bolstering home-produced food, or being tough towards imports,” he said. “We are out of the EU, but still in it.”

US boost

Environment secretary, Thérèse Coffey, who will also speak at the NFU conference, last week told the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) winter conference in Washington DC that she hoped to increase trade with the US and import more of its “fantastic produce”.

Coffey said science, innovation and technology would help farming continue to be sustainable, which was why Rishi Sunak had created a new government department to give focus to science innovation and technology.