The government has unveiled the membership of its new Trade and Agriculture Commission, formed after industry pressure led by the NFU parliamentary petition that was signed by over a million people.
The initial announcement said the Commission would be time-limited and advisory only. Current UK trade secretary Liz Truss says the Commission will be set up for six months, after which it will submit an advisory report which will be presented to Parliament – shortly after the end of the EU withdrawal transition period.
New chairman Tim Smith has already drawn criticism for a Sunday newspaper article calling for an end to “alarmism” over US chlorinated chicken products. But the government’s own announcement of the Commissioners states that chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef are illegal in the UK, with any change needing Parliamentary approval, and pledging no compromise to the UK’s high standards of environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety.
Apart from Mr Smith, a former chairman of the Food Standards Agency and, most recently, technical director at retailer Tesco, the Commission comprises: Nick von Westenholz of NFU England; Andrew McCornick, NFU Scotland; John Davies, NFU Cymru; Victor Chestnutt, Ulster Farmers Union; and Glyn Roberts of the Farmers Union of Wales.
Other members are: Hertfordshire sheep farmer and Nuffield Scholar Rob Hodgkins; LEAF chief executive Caroline Drummond; former chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens; Ian Wright CBE, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation; Andrew Opie of the British Retail Consortium; Kate Nicholls of UKHospitality; former UK trade minister and Waitrose chief executive Lord (Mark) Price; former trade minister and agriculture minister for New Zealand Sir Lockwood Smith; Tom Pengelly from Trade Out Of Poverty and Brexiteer economist Shanker Singham.
The Commission’s aims are: to consider trade policies the government should adopt to: secure opportunities for UK farmers, while ensuring the sector remains competitive and that animal welfare and environmental standards in food production are not undermined; advance and protect British consumer interests and those of developing countries; help the UK engage with the WTO to build a coalition that helps advance higher animal welfare standards across the world; and to develop trade policy that identifies and opens up new export opportunities for the UK agricultural industry (particularly SME) and that benefits the UK economy as a whole.
“The Commission will ensure that the UK’s agricultural industry, our support for farmers and our commitment to high welfare standards are maintained,” states Defra secretary George Eustice. “This government will work hard to ensure any future trade deals are in their best interests and will prioritise both food production and our world-leading environmental targets.”
The British Veterinary Association has already criticised the lack of veterinary expertise on the panel.