Trade Bill: will government resist lobbying by profit-seeking vested interests?

In the latest newsletter, Tracy Worcester (Farms Not Factories, below)* reports on Monday’s House of Commons debate:

“The government marched on with their free-trade agenda and voted down New Clause 11 in the Trade and Agriculture Bill that would have banned imports of agricultural products with lower standards of food hygiene, animal welfare and environmental protection than are demanded of our farmers.

“97% of them rejected the New Clause 4 which means the United Kingdom can now be signed up to trade deals without any consultation with parliament or the public, handing yet more power to corporations.

“Greg Hands, Minister for State for Trade Policy, describes the benefits of the newly established Trade and Agriculture Commission. He states, “Ministers can ensure close engagement with the agriculture industry to help inform, shape and guide agricultural trade policy, so that this is recognised throughout our trade negotiations.”

However, Tracy reminds us, agri-industry does not represent real farming/best farming practice.

She draws attention to a right-wing think tank IEA (Institute of Economic Affairs) founded by battery farming pioneer Antony Fisher in 1955, which has set up a secretive funding channel for money from Oklahoma to fund its trade team, including funds from agribusiness interests.

Last week she revealed that Shanker Singham, a member of the Commission, is a Fellow of the IEA which pushed for a Brexit where the UK reduces regulations and signs sweeping US-UK trade deals.

IEA director general, Mark Littlewood (right), told an undercover reporter that Singham was “unbelievably well connected” to Brexiteer cabinet ministers including trade secretary Liam Fox, Michael Gove and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and would be able to introduce the ministers to the prospective US agribusiness donor.

Another member of the UK’s Trade and Agriculture Commission, Sir Lockwood Smith, an advisor to the IEA, referred to the cautious approach to risk that underpins European environmental regulation, stating the IEA’s policy goal:

The key point underlying all of this is that we’ve got to get away from the precautionary principle”

Tracy points out that Liz Truss (above), Secretary of State for International Trade, who founded the Commission has a history of close connection with the Institute of Economic Affairs.

More positive news is that public opinion on the importance of farming is at an all time high; 86% agreed that British farms should grow as much food as they can to provide national food security. The multinational trade deals promoted by the Conservatives are not only dangerous for food security, environmental protection and welfare standards, but are contrary to popular demand, not least by most Tory voters.

Another positive; a proposed amendment before the House of Lords is welcomed by the Sustainable Food Trust, that would grant financial support for small abattoirs. Farms not Factories has interviewed experts on this topic and fully supports moves to expand the network of small-scale abattoirs around the country to ensure provenance and quality, and minimise animal stress with shorter journey times to slaughter. She hopes this amendment will be accepted.

Small-scale farmers and butchers have been invited to make videos describing their lockdown experiences. This week’s video comes from Emmett’s Store, the UK’s oldest artisan ham and bacon producer.

All pork is sourced locally and is free range. On the outset of lockdown, owner Mark Thomas was slightly apprehensive. The cafe had to shut and shop customers were greatly reduced. However, more customers have been ordering online, and at one point they even held a Zoom party to help sell food parcels, with great success.

Re-localising our food economy is the most resilient way forward as many well known voices said in the Local Futures webinar on World Re-localisation Day, June 21st.

 

 

*Farms Not Factories is a non-governmental organisation that has been campaigning against pig factories for over 15 years.

 

 

 

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Posted on July 24, 2020, in Brexit, Business, Conflict of interest, Corporate political nexus, Democracy undermined, Government 2020, Lobbying, Trade, Vested interests and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Diana Schumacher

    Tracy is doing a great job, at it is very encouraging to see how the trend in support of localisation is gaining momentum.

    However, the lobbying by big business and the pressures of finding food deals outside the EU will inevitably lead to a dilution of standards and safety, particularly if we enter into trade deals with the US.

    I was appalled to read the comment about dropping the precautionary principle. It was such long process to get the principle adopted in the first place.

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