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Home/Government pledges scrutiny power to TAC

Government pledges scrutiny power to TAC

The Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) will be granted permanent status and given the power to scrutinise each proposed trade deal

Government pledges to give Trade and Agriculture Commission ability to scrutinise post-Brexit trade deals, but campaigns warn amendment to legislation falls short of formally banning products such as chlorinated chicken from the UK.

The government has finally taken steps that could block chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef from British supermarket shelves, in a victory for farmers, environmentalists, and animal welfare campaigners that delivers a blow to US hopes that UK animal welfare standards might be lowered as part of a future trade deal.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Environment Minister George Eustice announced yesterday that they will table an amendment to the Agriculture Bill that gives the new post-Brexit commerce watchdog, the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC), more powers to prevent trade deals that could water down UK food standards.

Under the new rules, the TAC - which includes representatives from the National Farmers Union (NFU) and the Food and Drinks Confederation - will be made properly independent, granted permanent status, and given the power to scrutinise each proposed trade deal for its impact on environmental, welfare, and food standards, the government said.

NFU President Minette Batters hailed the government's plan to put the TAC on a statutory footing, noting the move would be "hugely welcomed" by UK farmers.

This demonstrates the government's commitment to not only safeguarding our standards of production in future trade deals but demonstrates an ambition to be global leaders in animal welfare and environmental protection, she said.

The British Veterinary Association has also welcomed the government's concession, which it said acknowledged "the strength of feeling on the issue of protecting UK animal health and welfare standards in future trade deals".

The move marks a major policy reversal from the government, which just three weeks ago denied MPs a vote on giving the TAC such powers and has faced repeated criticism from the public, farmers, environmentalists, and celebrities for failing to legislate to ensure UK food, welfare, and environmental standards will be imposed on all post-Brexit food imports.

However, Liz Truss yesterday insisted that the enhanced watchdog body would put British farming "at the heart" of the UK's post-Brexit trade agenda and would ensure that the interests of farmers and consumers were "promoted and advanced".

I will never sign up to anything that threatens their ability to compete, or that undermines their high standards, she said.

Under the terms of the amendment, the TAC will produce an independent report on each new free trade agreement chalked up by the government that examines the deal's impact on animal welfare, agriculture and environmental standards. The commission’s recommendations on whether to accept or reject the deal would then be presented to Parliament at the start of the 21-day scrutiny period.