Liz Truss has been told to beef up post-Brexit protection for British farmers or face a ‘brick wall’ of Tory rebellions.
The International Trade Secretary was warned to expect a fresh revolt from Tory MPs unless she guaranteed ‘in law’ not to sell out the UK’s world-class food production standards in a trade deal with the US.
The warning comes despite Ms Truss unveiling a commission last week to advise on forthcoming trade deals.
It also follows repeated pledges from the Minister, a free trader, that she would never let down UK farmers by allowing in ‘unsafe’, cheaper US-made food – such as hormone-fed beef or chlorinated chicken – to secure a lucrative trade deal with Washington.
Liz Truss (pictured in 2019) has been told to beef up post-Brexit protection for British farmers or face a ‘brick wall’ of Tory rebellions
But Tory rebels, who staged a Commons revolt in May, are demanding more concessions – including beefing up the ‘weak’ trade and agriculture advisory commission – as the price for staving off more rebellions this autumn.
Critics have already complained that the advisory body will expire in six months and bemoaned what they see as a lack of ‘animal welfare’ representation among its membership.
In the Lords last week, senior Tory peer John Randall warned that without offering more, the Government would be ‘rather like a car heading towards a brick wall’. The former Government Deputy Chief Whip said the makeup of the trade commission ‘leaves many people a little wary’.
His remarks come amid Government fears that the Lords will next month insist on inserting fresh protections for quality British food in the Agriculture Bill – setting up the prospect of a further Tory revolt in the Commons, backed by Labour.
And yesterday, his views were echoed by senior Tory MP Neil Parish, who led the previous Commons revolt when 18 of the party’s MPs defied the Government to vote for specific protections in law against sub-standard imports.
Mr Parish, chairman of the powerful Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, said the lifespan of the commission ‘will clearly need to be extended beyond six months’.
The warning comes despite Ms Truss (pictured arriving at the Foreign and Commonwealth office to participate in the first in person cabinet meeting since the coronavirus lockdown) unveiling a commission last week to advise on forthcoming trade deals
He added: ‘The commission needs teeth, probably by putting it on a statutory footing, to give people confidence that its work can’t just be ignored after it reports.’
Mr Parish, who had already said he was not sure how much he trusted Ms Truss, appeared to take another swipe at her.
He said: ‘Having recently met with the Prime Minister, I know he is really passionate about supporting our farming sector but I’m not sure everyone in Government is necessarily on the same page.’
Campaigners battling to safeguard British agriculture have thrown their weight behind The Mail on Sunday’s Save Our Family Farms campaign, which aims to keep controversial US food products off our supermarket shelves.
This newspaper also revealed in June how Mr Johnson overruled the International Trade Secretary to insist unsafe US food would be kept out of the UK by imposing prohibitively high tariffs on them once the country left the EU single market at the end of the year.
Last night, a source close to Ms Truss sought to allay fears by stressing she ‘doesn’t go to work every day trying to undermine British farming and standards’, adding: ‘She wants to secure deals that benefit the industry, consumers and the whole UK. The commission reflects that desire.
We want the advice of experts and to put agriculture and farming at the heart of Britain’s trade policy.’ But last night, the Greener UK coalition of 13 leading environmental groups branded her commission ‘powerless’.
Spokesman Patrick Killoran said: ‘It is hard not to conclude that the only people the Government is trying to please are US trade negotiators.’
Labour’s rural affairs spokesman Luke Pollard said: ‘We need more than a new quango – we need our high food and farming standards in law so farmers cannot be undercut by trade deals.’