Boris Johnson’s hopes of a trade deal with the United States are looking increasingly like a house of straw… built on sand.
Already leading figures in Congress have said they will block a trade deal if Johnson pushes his Internal Markets Bill into UK law, as it would break international law and – particularly – threaten the peace in Northern Ireland.
(Did Johnson really dream up this Bill because his Russian donors demanded it?)
Now the House of Lords has amended his Agriculture Bill, so that food products imported under any future trade deals must meet or exceed current standards in the UK – to prevent farmers in this country from being undermined.
For the opposition, Lord Grantchester warned: “Low-quality food cannot be allowed to jeopardise rural communities by undercutting UK farmers with products using methods that would be illegal here.”
Consumers did not want chlorinated chicken or hormone-treated beef to be imported from the US, he said.
It was only by supporting the Labour-led move that peers could be sure the Government was “bound to its commitment not to import food of lower standards than our own domestic products”, Lord Krebs said.
Baroness Boycott, a crossbench peer, said chlorinated chicken was the “tip of the iceberg” of “bad food” which could come into the country.
The amendment is a rejection of the Tory government’s claims, as summarised by Baroness Noakes:
“The government’s policy is clear. They are committed to higher food and welfare standards.
“We do not need to write into law what the Government is committed to.”
Clearly the majority of the Lords disagree – and who can blame them?
The whole point of not writing such a commitment into legislation is to ensure that a government can U-turn on it, once it has been enacted, and we all know it. That’s why the amendment has been brought in.
Unfortunately, it is well within Boris Johnson’s power to throw out the Lords’ amendment, so that the eventual law will undermine UK farmers, and will allow diseased meat onto our plates.
It is possible that MPs will stop and think for a moment before blithely voting it away, though; debate in the House of Lords is of a higher standard than that in the Commons and their reasons for changing a Bill deserve careful consideration.
Many Tories represent rural constituencies full of farmers.
How will those people take it if one of the earliest actions of these MPs in the new Parliament is to stab their voters in the back?
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