South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Rural Affairs Spokesperson Colin Smyth has accused the UK Government of ‘selling out’ local farmers following the announcement of a free trade agreement with New Zealand.
The deal, following rapidly on from the one signed in June with Australia, will see the UK potentially open up its borders to huge volumes of imported food, a significant proportion of which may not have been produced on farming systems permitted here.
According to the NFUS, the New Zealand negotiations have been concluded without proper parliamentary scrutiny. The Union believes this is vital but, with the continued absence of the promised Statutory Trade and Agriculture Commission, the UK Government has failed to establish a route to effective scrutiny.
Colin Smyth said: “Scottish agriculture is at the heart of our world-class food and drink industry and, beyond its economic value, is central to the viability of our rural communities in the south of Scotland.
“The needs of the sector must therefore be an integral part of any trade deals, and those deals should meet the future ambitions of the sector.
“At a time when we must continue to drive up standards, cut emissions, use land more sustainably and improve animal welfare, those ambitions cannot be undermined by trade deals.
“When the Agriculture Bill was passing through Westminster, the UK Government claimed that there was no risk to standards. The sector’s fears were dismissed. Legal protections that had been added to the bill by Labour were removed.
“I expressed my concerns back in June that the deal signed with Australia could set a dangerous precedent and this is exactly what has happened. Once again, we see the UK Government selling out local farmers.
“Just like the Australian deal, the one with New Zealand has no quotas, tariffs or real safeguards, and it will have a devastating impact on the agriculture sector. It is especially disappointing that a local MP who represents a rural constituency is a trade envoy to New Zealand and is presiding over this undermining of local farmers.
“It is little wonder that the NFUS has expressed grave concerns over this latest deal but sadly Tory politicians have refused to listen. There isn’t a single person involved in agriculture anywhere in the UK that believes this is anything other than a bad deal and that tells its own story.”