In a bold and wide-ranging speech, Dr Neil Hudson again stood up for British farmers, urging the Government to renegotiate unfair trade deals with New Zealand and Australia.
Speaking at length in Parliament in the Australia and New Zealand Trade Bill, Dr Hudson, who represents England’s largest and most rural constituency, Penrith and The Border, spoke about his concerns that cheaper Australasian produce could undercut British farmers, as well as the need for our world-class animal health and welfare standards to be promoted with would-be trade partners.
As a veterinary surgeon who has worked on farms in both the UK and Australia, a member of the EFRA Select Committee and with the backing of some of the nation’s most historic farming communities, few are better placed to pass comment on the trade deal.
Dr Hudson has long suggested the use of tariff rate quota mechanisms which can essentially control the flow of produce coming into the country so that British farmers can continue to sell their world-class produce on the domestic market.
Increased parliamentary scrutiny for future trade deals, better resourcing of the Trade and Agriculture Commission, and a statutory review of deals every year were also on the Cumbrian MP’s agenda.
His comments come following the barbaric and illegal invasion of Ukraine, which sent shockwaves throughout the international community, reminding many that we cannot be certain of the future in terms of food security. As such British farmers need to be supported now.
Dr Hudson, prefaced his comments, stating that he is in favour of trade if it works fairly for both countries and someone who loves Australia and recognises how closely allied we are. Referencing the popular TV show Neighbours and the Ashes cricket contest, Dr Hudson made clear that he hoped to work with Government ministers to make sure any deals worked for both sides.
Speaking afterwards, Dr Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and The Border. said:
“As I said in the Commons Chamber, now more than ever we need resolute support for our world-class Cumbrian and British farmers. As one of the first trade deals we have penned in full since leaving the EU, this will set a precedent. That’s why we need to get it right and why I’ve called for the Government to get back around the negotiation table and to stand up for our wonderful food producers here in Cumbria and the UK.”
Not a new issue, for Dr Hudson, he has remained resolute for some years now that British farmers and animal welfare standards must be protected in future trade deals and has voted accordingly against the Government a number of times on this. Moreover, along with colleagues on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, Dr Hudson produced a report on the Australia trade deal which recommended the Government publish core animal welfare standards to reassure the farming sector that it is committed to protecting standards in future deals.
As he said in his speech, these concerns have been directly fed to him by Cumbrian hill farmers and others in the livestock sector who are rightly nervous about the impact that cheaper foreign produce could have on their livelihoods and the heritage of our wonderful rural landscapes, so well maintained by them.
MPs from across the political divide welcomed Dr Neil Hudson’s speech in the Chamber including Paul Blomfield (Labour, Sheffield Central), Helen Morgan (Liberal Democrat, North Shropshire), Anum Qaisar (SNP, Airdrie & Shotts), and Andrew Griffith (Conservative, Arundel & South Downs). Their specific comments can be found in the transcript below.
Selected quotes from Dr Neil Hudson MP’s speech:
- “I have been labelled a protectionist, but this is not about protectionism; it is about standing up for our values and what we believe in. I believe that we in the UK can be a beacon to the rest of the world in the way that we farm and through our animal health and welfare standards. That is why these precedent trade deals are so important: we can send out the message, “If you want to trade with us, bring your standards up to those that the UK population wants from our UK farmers.” These deals are precedents, and this is not about protectionism, but about standing up for our beliefs and values.”
- “My plea to the Government is this. In the context of the current deals and that of future trade deals, our UK farming and food production sector is under challenge and under threat. Let us not challenge it further with our international trade policy.”
- “I am supportive of the Prime Minister and the Government, but on this issue—for my constituency and, speaking as a veterinary surgeon, for Cumbrian and for UK farming—I want to stand up and say clearly that I have real concerns about what we are doing as a country, and that we need to ensure that we do not make mistakes.”
- “I will stand up for my Cumbrian farmers and our UK farmers. If they are under threat in, say, the beef and sheep sectors, we have to stand up for them and ensure that we are looking out for them. As I have said before, this is not protectionism; this is about standing up for our values and what we believe in. I have been consistent on this since I was elected to Parliament, and I have voted accordingly on the Agriculture Bill and the Trade Bill.”
To watch the full speech, from 16:22:14, visit: www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/a89e41cf-2b02-4c1d-a4d4-6a3ae8a98af0
An official transcript of proceedings can also be found here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2022-09-06/debates/c407921e-d6b7-4dd0-8c0b-eef4bb9c98fc/CommonsChamber