A COALITION of farming, environmental, animal welfare and public health groups has urged the Prime Minister to enshrine British farming and food standards in law.

Their letter to Boris Johnson, sent to coincide with the the passing of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill which was to take Britain out of the EU on January 31, was signed by NFU president Minette Batters and counter-signed by leading figures from more than 60 other groups, including the CLA, the Tenant Farmers Association, the National Pig Association, the National Trust, the Royal Society for Public Health, the Soil Association and the RSPCA,.

The letter said they supported the Government’s “stated commitment to ensuring the environmental, animal welfare and safety standards of UK food production are not undermined after we leave the EU and develop our own independent trade policy.

“We are all agreed that Brexit provides an opportunity to foster a sustainable, carbon-neutral model of farming in the UK building on our reputation for high-quality, safe and affordable food.

The letter quotes pledges on standards by Mr Johnson and Environment Secretary Theresa Villers, and the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitment that “in all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards”.

But it said there would be intense pressure on British trade negotiators to make concessions on this issue and the UK would also need to consider how it managed its trading relationships outside the terms of bilateral trade deals.

“It is vital that we have more than just verbal assurances to ensure our standards are properly safeguarded. In light of this, we urge you to take some specific actions we believe will enable you to ensure that the UK Government can achieve its commitment to safeguard the standards of UK production, now and in the future:

“The Government should enshrine its manifesto commitment in law. The Agriculture Bill provides a good opportunity to do so for some key standards.”

The letter calls for a trade and standards commission “to engage on the UK’s trade policy and how it affects our standards” and says “Brexit provides a vital opportunity for the UK to lead the way in devising a global trading system fit for the 21st century” that rises to the challenges of climate change and promotes more sustainable models of production and consumption across the world.