Pork Wars! Ministers clash as farmers fear Britain will be flooded with cheap Mexican and Canadian meat under a new trade deal due to be agreed in days
Ministers are at war over fears a new trade deal could allow Canada and Mexico to flood the UK with cheap beef and pork, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
As talks come to a head, Environment Minister Therese Coffey is said to be pushing for their quotas to be capped to protect British farmers.
But government sources close to the talks, led by trade secretary Kemi Badenoch, insist the country will not lower its food standards.
The UK is expected to reach an agreement in principle within days to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
The issue of access to the UK beef and pork markets is seen as one of the most important issues still under negotiation. Talks with the 11-country bloc — which also includes New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Japan, Chile, Vietnam and Malaysia — have been underway since 2021.
As talks go down to the wire, Environment Minister Therese Coffey (pictured) is said to push for their quotas to be capped to protect British farmers
Initially, there were concerns about Canada’s bid to get Britain to lift a ban on hormone-treated beef, but British ministers have insisted this will not happen.
However, there is also pressure from Canada and Mexico to gain access to the UK agricultural market, especially beef and pork.
It is believed they want the same terms that Australia and New Zealand have been given in their own trade deals with the UK – where tariffs on beef and mutton will be phased out and quotas on the quantities they can ship in the coming ten years will rise. up to 15 years.
But there are concerns that lower animal welfare standards in countries in the Trans-Pacific trade bloc mean members could undermine British farmers if they are given high quotas.
According to sources, Ms Coffey would “fight for the farmers” and has made her position on access clear. Another government insider close to the talks said: ‘We will not sign a deal that forces the UK to lower our food standards in any area.
‘Meanwhile, joining CPTPP means that 99 per cent of UK goods exports are eligible for tariff-free trade to a market of 500 million new customers. Our farmers have rightly told us that they have the best produce in the world – so sell it to the world and prosper!’
The Mail on Sunday has campaigned for protection against poor quality foreign food – and to prevent British farms from being driven out of business by cheap imports.
Minette Batters, president of the National Farming Union (NFU), has said she is now “very wary” of the government’s trade approach following the Australia-New Zealand deal.
She said farmers were seen as an ‘inconvenience’ to UK trade policy and were ‘sacrificed’ in favor of the services sector in Britain’s first post-Brexit deals.
Former Environment Secretary George Eustice is among those who have argued that the UK’s deal with Australia is bad for farmers. As a result, Ms Batters said she viewed negotiations on the future Trans-Pacific deal like a ‘hawk’ after claiming agriculture was being sacrificed on the back of the service sector in the Australia-New Zealand trade deals.
Government sources close to the talks, led by trade secretary Kemi Badenoch (pictured), insist the country will not lower its food standards
She said yesterday that Rishi Sunak indicated during the leadership race that he would be cautious when it comes to trade deals. She added that she hoped he would continue this approach in government. But of past trade deals, she said, “You can’t be under any illusions about the damage that’s already been done.”
During his first attempt to become prime minister last year, Sunak described the deals as a “unilateral” agreement.
However, he has described the Trans-Pacific deal as a “fantastic” opportunity for the country. If the UK joined, it would account for 16 percent of global GDP.
Ms Badenoch previously said: ‘No matter how nice the deal is, there will always be a group of people who see it as a zero-sum game and ‘we have something they don’t have’.
She added that improving the message of how trade is good for agriculture is “one of the challenges I need to address and make them feel more reassured.”