Under cover of the Coronavirus pandemic and headlines over the Government’s handling of the crisis which has seen Britain suffer more deaths than any other European country, another major public health story has slipped through barely noticed, and has rarely been mentioned in the weekly PMQs.
The most important farming legislation in generations passed its third reading in parliament despite warnings that in a bid to make the UK market pliable for a post-Brexit US trade deal, protections of minimum food safety standards have evaporated, as have safeguards for Britain’s farmers.
With most MPs still socially distanced at home, MPs passed the legislation’s third reading in a virtual vote – 360 – 211 despite guarantees of a minimum standard to protect British food – and therefor British farming – being absent from the overhaul of UK agriculture. A full list of how they voted in this crucial legislation is in the report (link below).
As the bill moves to the Lords for a second reading amid outrage from UK farmers, this weekend former Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson expressed his disbelief that all eight DUP MPs had voted with Conservative colleagues for a bill he said has “the potential to be the last nail in the coffin for agriculture in Northern Ireland.”
He warned: “the Bill opens the flood gates to cheap food imports into the UK from around the world. This food will not have been produced to the same standards achieved consistently by farmers in Northern Ireland. These imports will serve to drive markets down at a time when local farmers are under tremendous pressure.”