Deeds not words: NFU boss demands commitment from Gove

By Gwen Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

Batters: 'I absolutely don’t want it written in blood, I want it written in ink.'
Batters: 'I absolutely don’t want it written in blood, I want it written in ink.'
National Farmers Union (NFU) president Minette Batters has called on secretary of state Michael Gove to commit to securing the high standards of British food production after the UK leaves the EU next month.

Speaking at the NFU Conference in Birmingham yesterday (19 February), Batters questioned whether Government would put pen to paper and sign a bill that would protect the integrity of British food.

Addressing the secretary of state, she said: “You’ve said over your dead body would British standards be undermined. I am reasonable and I absolutely don’t want it written in blood, I want it written in ink.”

To achieve this, Batters suggested a high level commission be set up to bring together Government officials, industry representatives, civil society groups and experts in food and farming to make recommendations on how future trade deals should be scrutinised at a high level by parliament and industry.

Sign on the dotted line

“The idea has already received wider support,”​ Batters added. “Will you make it happen? Will you sign on the dotted line today? Warm words are nice, secretary of state, but we need firm commitments and clear actions.

“I know for myself – and indeed yourself – history will judge us not by our speeches, not by our words, but by our actions and what we effectively deliver. For me this deadline of 29 March on the whole standards piece is absolutely critical.”

Gove assured Batters and attendees that the Government’s guarantee to protect food standards would be in their hands before 29 March, stressing that the laws governing food production in the UK won’t change the day after Brexit.

“There is concern that standards might be compromised in the pursuit of future trade deals,”​ Gove said. “From the Prime Minister down, there has been determination to ensure that won’t happen.

Future trade with the EU

Commenting on the future of trade with the EU post-Brexit, the secretary of state reiterated the deal already secured by the Prime Minister that would secure tariff and quota-free access to the European market.

Gove also confirmed that the cabinet was currently in discussion on what the UK’s future tariff regime might be in the event of a no-deal scenario.

“I can’t pre-empt the announcement that will be made later this week, but one thing I can reassure you is that it will not be the case that we would have zero-rate tariffs on food products – there will be protections for sensitive sections of food production. Beyond that, I can’t say at the moment.”

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