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Former Tory MEP Daniel Hannan said the Labour’s call for the UK to ban food imports made to lower standards after Brexit was “deranged. He said Labour’s plans, which they claim will guarantee the UK’s high food and farming standards in law following Britain’s exit from the bloc, would “rule out” a trade deal with both the US and the EU. Mr Hannan tweeted: “What Labour is suggesting is that we go beyond existing EU standards.
“The absurdity of these proposals is that they wouldn’t just rule out a trade deal with the US; they would rule out a trade deal with the EU, several of whose members have different animal welfare regulations.
“What Labour is asking for here is a blanket ban on food imports from much of the world, including many countries we buy from now as EU members.
“I get that anti-Americanism plays to some on the Left, but taking it to this level is deranged.”
Mr Hannan’s rant comes after Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging for amendments to the Agriculture Bill, which sets out farming policy after Brexit, to guarantee high standards and stop imports of lower quality food.
Ahead of a visit to National Farmers’ Union president Minette Batters’ farm in Wiltshire, Sir Keir warned that without action to protect standards there was a “real risk” of lower quality food ending up on British plates.
Sir Keir said: “No one wants lower quality food on our plates, but unless the Prime Minister shows some leadership and backs British farmers there is a real risk this could happen.”
The call comes amid concerns post-Brexit trade deals could allow imports of food produced in ways that would be illegal in the UK, undercutting British farmers and lowering standards for produce available to consumers.
But the Government has made repeated pledges that high environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards will be maintained and food such as chicken washed in chlorine and beef from cattle fed with hormones will not be allowed to enter the UK.
The Tory government has so far rebuffed attempts to include the protections in the Agriculture Bill going through Parliament, arguing existing laws already enshrine them and they have no intention of watering them down.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss this week slapped down fresh calls to guarantee in law all UK farming standards, claiming such a move would disrupt trade with developing nations.
She told MPs Labour’s approach could result in a “blanket ban” on any food products which do not comply exactly with British farming regulations.
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Speaking in the Commons, Ms Truss asked Labour MP Emily Thornberry: “So is she saying she wants to ban Kenyans from exporting their products to us if they don’t follow exactly the same farm standards as here in Britain?
“I want to make sure our farmers are able to continue with their high standards, but I don’t want to stop developing countries exporting their goods to us.”
The pair clashed during international trade questions as Ms Thornberry warned of the impact of the Government’s post-Brexit policy on British farmers.
Ms Thornberry said: “If it is Ms Truss’s argument that we don’t need Labour’s amendments because bans on relevant imports are already enshrined in law, can she please tell us which law prevents the import of pork that has been produced on American farms that continue to use sow stalls?”
To which Ms Truss hit back: “Well Ms Thornberry is, of course, talking about an animal welfare issue, and as I made very clear earlier on, we will not allow the high animal welfare standards of our pig producers to be undermined.”
The House of Lords last month amended the Agriculture Bill in a bid to block the import of food produced abroad at lower animal welfare standards, amid warnings over chlorinated chicken or hormone-treated beef entering the UK market from the US.
But Mr Johnson’s Government is expected to overturn the amendment in the Commons.
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