Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has spoken out in a parliamentary debate on the Trade and Agriculture Commission, calling for it to have representation from all parts of the UK and all sectors of agriculture including crofting and hill farming. The Commission, which is supposed to scrutinise and review all proposed trade deals for their potential impact on agriculture, has yet to be constituted by the government despite a trade deal with Australia already being agreed “in principle”.
Speaking in Parliament, Mr Carmichael said:
“Last week we were here talking about fishing. Today it is agriculture, dealing with many of the consequences of the promises that were made to our rural communities prior to our leaving the European Union. We are now seeing some of the disjunction between the rhetoric of the time and the reality of today.
“There is a need for a strategy. I would like to see at its heart a concern for animal welfare. Australian animal welfare standards are very different from those maintained by our farmers. Australia allows growth hormones in beef production. It continues to keep its poultry in battery cages. It allows the branding of cattle and the cutting away of healthy flesh from the hindquarters of lambs.
“For decades, we have told our farmers that it is in their economic interest to go for top-end production, and raise the standards of animal welfare and environmental protection. Now they risk having the rug pulled out from under their feet.
“When other countries go into negotiations with us they will expect the same opportunities as we have given Australia. The Secretary of State is very keen to offer them the same opportunities. She seems to be on a mission to get more of such agreements.”
“The Trade and Agriculture Commission will need to have representation from across the whole of the United Kingdom. Hill farming and crofting are the economic backbone of some of our most economically fragile communities to be found anywhere in the country. The money earned stays in those communities; it goes into the shops, the agricultural merchants, the vets and the post offices.
“These trade deals will have real and immediate impacts in some of the smallest and most economically fragile communities. Their concerns are not fanciful; they are not confection. They are real and legitimate and they must be addressed.”