Faced with a growing food trade crisis, the European Union is preparing to sign a trade deal that will see British food growers able to sell more products in the EU.
The deal is being negotiated in the first phase of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the EU’s plan to revive its struggling agricultural sector.
The agreement is expected to be formally signed on Thursday by EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht and British Agriculture Secretary Richard Bacon, who have already made the trip to Brussels for talks.
The UK’s Agricultural Policy, the EU and Trade Minister Matthew Hancock have said the trade deal will provide British food producers with the right to export up to 25 per cent of their crops to other countries.
The deal will also give farmers the option of setting up small shops to sell their produce, which could lead to a rise in sales, according to De Guchts comments.
He said that in the coming months the European Commission is expected in the run up to the trade talks to provide a range of incentives, including direct grants, financial assistance and other financial support to British growers.
“We are committed to helping British food farmers to grow more, so we are making the most of the opportunities we have and are looking forward to continuing to work with the British government and the European commission to develop the best possible trade deal for our industry,” he said.
“The Government is determined to support our agricultural sector and ensure we continue to grow our country’s agricultural exports and to support the livelihoods of our agricultural workforce.”
In the meantime, the UK has been criticised for failing to enforce the CAP rules on food exports, which are set to expire at the end of March.
In a move designed to protect the UK’s agriculture industry, the government said it would enforce the EU rules, but only after farmers have secured the right from the UK to export more than 10 per cent in goods.
“At the same time, the Government has been clear that any UK food-producing industry should have the right not to export to third countries, including third countries that do not have the same standards as the UK,” said De Guft.
“This is why we have set out our agricultural strategy in the Autumn Statement and it is why the UK Government has committed to the first stage of negotiations.”
However, the current situation requires us to ensure that the agricultural sector can continue to thrive and flourish, and that British food is exported to the EU as quickly as possible.
“De Guchs remarks come as the British food industry struggles to cope with the Brexit fallout, with some of the biggest food-related companies facing an uncertain future.
Food group Tesco is already considering a decision to close its British operations, while supermarket chains including Asda and Lidl are also struggling to meet high demand in Europe.
The European Commission said it was working with industry bodies, the farming industry and the UK government to help support food-growing UK farmers in the next phase of negotiations, and said it expected to sign an agreement in the autumn.”
I have been here before, so I know what it takes to win a trade agreement. “
We will also continue to strengthen our bilateral agricultural cooperation with our partners in the UK, including the UK Food Standards Agency and the Food and Veterinary Authority.”
I have been here before, so I know what it takes to win a trade agreement.
This is an important step to ensure a stronger agricultural sector in the European single market.
“The agreement with Britain is one of a number of major trade deals currently being negotiated by the EU in the aftermath of Brexit, including one with the US, which will see the EU-Canada free trade agreement be formally concluded in 2019.
The Commission has also signed a deal with the UK in April to bring down the tariffs on UK imports of the EU goods it buys from.