The government has confirmed that the newTrade & Agriculture Commission will be put on a full statutory footing, in a move welcomed by farmers as extra protection of Britain's food standards.
The commission was initially launched for a six-month period in July to bring together voices from across the sector and report back to inform trade policy and negotiations, and international trade secretary Liz Truss has now confirmed its existence will be made permanent.
Since its launch the commission has heard from experts on farming, animal welfare, the environment and trade, called for evidence from hundreds of key voices across the industry, and engaged local farmers, producers, businesses and MPs across the UK through a series of virtual regional roadshows.
The government said the commission will now have a more active role through a new legislative underpinning, to be reviewed every three years.
It will produce a report on the impact on animal welfare and agriculture of each free-trade deal the government signs after the end of the EU transition period on 1 January. This report will be laid in Parliament before the start of the 21-day scrutiny period under the terms of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act.
The move, which the government said was part of its plan to place farmers at the heart of its trade policy, will allow Parliamentarians access to independent and expert advice when reviewing the impact of each trade deal on farming, it explained.
The commission will still report to Truss and will continue with the report it is currently producing, which will advise on trade policies that bring opportunities for UK farmers, protect British consumer interests, look at how the UK engages the WTO, and develop trade policy that opens up export opportunities for the UK agriculture industry.
The commission is due to publish an interim report shortly, and the full report will be published in February 2021 and presented to Parliament.
Truss said: 'As trade secretary, I want deals that deliver for British farmers and help them sell more brilliant produce around the world. I will never sign up to anything that threatens their ability to compete, or that undermines their high standards.
'Our trade policy is deeply rooted in British values – democracy, the rule of law, human rights and a fierce commitment to high food and farming standards. Any deal that does not abide by those values or deliver for vital industries like agriculture will remain firmly on the shelf.
'The Trade & Agriculture Commission is an important part of our vision for a values-led and value-generating trade policy. It is about putting British farming at the heart of our trade agenda, and ensuring the interests of farmers and consumers are promoted and advanced as we move closer to becoming an independent trading nation on 1 January.'
NFU president Minette Batters added: 'The decision to extend the Trade & Agriculture Commission and put it on a statutory footing in order that it can report on any new trade deals for scrutiny in parliament will be hugely welcomed by Britain’s farmers.
'This demonstrates the government’s commitment to not only safeguarding our standards of production in future trade deals but demonstrates an ambition to be global leaders in animal welfare and environmental protection. We look forward to working with the Department for International Trade and Defra in our shared ambition to export high-quality British food around the world.'