Brexit: Farmers furious at impact of quitting EU told by PM that he has put them 'at forefront of trade deals”

Brexit: Farmers furious at impact of quitting EU told by PM that he has put them 'at forefront of trade deals”

Farmers dismayed by the impact of Brexit on their livelihoods were told by Rishi Sunak that he has put them “at the forefront of our trade deals”.

A convoy of tractors protested outside Parliament on Monday against post-Brexit trade deals and what they called substandard food imports in the latest demonstrations by farmers globally.

At least 50 tractors, many with Union Jack flags and signs such as “no farmers, no food, no future”, took part in the protest outside the Commons.

The farmers are demanding that the Government enforce more accurate food labelling and take steps to improve the country’s food security.

They also want the Government to end trade deals that they say are allowing imports of food produced to standards that would be illegal in Britain and undercut local farmers.

“Time and time again they have let us down,” Liz Webster, founder of Save British Farming, told the BBC.

“They promised to uphold our high standards and promised not to allow Britain to be a dumping ground ... what they are doing is making us a dumping ground.”

The rally follows protests by farmers across Europe who are angered by competition from cheaper imports and want stricter environmental regulations

Asked about farmers’ concerns about the impact of Brexit, and new trade deals, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ““The Prime Minister has put British farmers at the forefront of our trade deals.

“We have prioritised new export opportunities, we have protected UK food standards and we have removed market access barriers.

“That is on top of maintaining the £2.4 billion annual farming budget and we recently set out the biggest ever package of grants to support our farmers to produce food profitably and sustainably.”

But the Government’s own watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, has warned of the economic harm being done to Britain by Brexit.

But Ms Webster, a Wiltshire beef and arable farmer, said the current situation risked food security and the nation’s health.

Trade deals with New Zealand, Australia, and the CPTPP deal with 11 countries including Canada, Japan and Mexico, along with a lack of import checks, were allowing lower standard foods into the country, she said.

“In 2019, this Government was elected with a mandate to uphold our standards and deliver a ready-made deal with the EU which would see British agriculture boom,” she added.

“It is now entirely obvious that they have totally betrayed us all.”

Many farmers, like fishermen, backed Brexit, despite the National Farmers’ Union warning of the risks to the sector.

Jeff Gibson, founder of Kent Fairness for Farmers, said: “It’s so important that our message about substandard imports, dishonest labelling and concerns for food security is heard.

“With an election looming, we want to ensure the next incoming government takes up our cause.”

Geoffrey Philpott, a cauliflower farmer in east Kent, added: “I hope to be farming for many years to come, but if things don’t change, I won’t be and I won’t be employing the 14 people who work for me.

“Then we will be reliant on foreign produce that will not have the high standard of UK production.

“Once that happens, we could be held to ransom over supply and pricing.”