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Government pushes ahead with Australian deal- but risk TAC recommendations 'left to gather dust'

15 June 2021

Cross-party MPs raise growing concerns that the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) has been ignored in the Government's negotiation of post-Brexit trade deals.

In a new letter to the International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss, the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee express disappointment that the Government has yet to respond to recommendations made by the independent body, which was set up to protect the interests of British farmers, producers and consumers.

With the announcement of a new UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) , the letter expresses 'surprise' at the Trade Secretary’s claim that the TAC was not intended to influence the negotiation of FTAs, and instead merely 'advise on future strategy'.

The TAC's creation had provided the British farming sector with reassurance that the Government would engage with farmers’ and food producers’ concerns about the potential weakening of the UK’s environmental and animal welfare standards when negotiating trade deals.

The EFRA Committee now urge the Government to respond to the TAC's key recommendations without delay, and to appoint a Chair and members of the new statutory TAC that will scrutinise FTAs before the Parliamentary summer recess at the latest.

Chair of the EFRA Committee, Neil Parish MP, said:

“It seems nonsensical that the Government has jumped the gun and finalised the new UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement without first demonstrating that it has taken on board the thorough and well-researched conclusions of the Trade and Agriculture Commission's report. The Trade Secretary has stated that the TAC was established to 'advise on future strategy', yet the Government has pushed ahead with striking new trade deals that have major implications for the future of farming in this country, while the TAC’s report risks being left to gather dust.

"If Ministers cannot commit to publishing a written response to the Commission’s report before the summer recess, I shall invite them to provide oral evidence on the Commission's recommendations. British farmers and producers had hoped that TAC's establishment would ensure that they were considered and listened to - to let them down now would make a mockery of the commitments made when the TAC was created."

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