Trade deals after Brexit will not allow imports of food produced to lower standards than is permitted for British farmers, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Michael Gove has insisted.
Concerns have been raised that UK farmers will be held to environmental and animal welfare rules but will be undercut by imports of cheaper food with lower standards, such as hormone-fed beef or chlorine-washed chicken from the US.
Mr Gove moved to allay those fears when he appeared before the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee .
Nothing that is banned in the UK while it is still part of the European Union would be allowed in under future trade deals after the country quits the bloc, he confirmed.
Mr Gove said: “Any trade deal would have to be agreed not just by the Cabinet, but by Parliament, and the commitment I have underlined today is one the International Trade Secretary and indeed the Cabinet have agreed as well.”
Quizzed on the uncertainty over future support for farmers after Brexit, Mr Gove said a review of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) in Europe meant farmers in places such as France and Italy were in a similar situation.
He told MPs on the committee he could not confirm current levels of funding paid through the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy would continue – as he was not the Chancellor.
But he said: “I’ve a deep appreciation of the vital importance of making sure working farmers, not least in the uplands, are provided with support they need in order not just to generate the food we enjoy but also make sure the public goods they produce as well are adequately rewarded.
He added: “Seventy per cent of this country is farmed, some of the most beautiful and iconic landscapes and our most important habitats depend on the active work of farmers whose principle aim is to secure a fair price on the market for their produce.”
Asked if the support for farming and public goods could be delivered for less than the £3 billion currently paid through the EU, Mr Gove said: “It’s possible but not desirable in my view.
“We get exceptional value for money from our farmers and the rural economy, considering what’s provided.”
He said there were ways of getting more money from the private sector, such as water companies, for the farmed landscape and the public goods it provides.
But he said: “I’d want to makes sure we get the maximum amount of support, properly targeted, into farming and the rural economy as possible.”