A Labour Government would ensure British farmers were not disadvantaged in Brexit trade negotiations, according to the Party’s election manifesto, reports Alistair Driver.
Following the leak of the draft version last week, the real thing, unveiled by leader Jeremy Corbyn, included a section offering strong support for farming as new post-Brexit trade deals are pieced together.
It stressed that, in contrast to the Conservatives’ approach, Labour would adopt ‘fresh negotiating priorities that have a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union – which
are essential for maintaining industries, jobs and businesses in Britain’.
The manifesto said: “The EU is the UK’s single largest trading partner in agricultural produce, with the vast majority of British exports being sold to European markets. A Labour government will end the uncertainty for our farmers and food producers by securing continued EU market access allowing British farmers and food producers to continue to sell their products on the Continent.
“Labour will also protect our farmers and rural economy by ensuring Britain continues to set the highest standards in food quality and welfare. We will not allow Brexit to be used as an excuse to undercut our farmers and flood Britain’s food chain with cheap and inferior produce.”
The manifesto confirmed that free movement of people would end once we leave the EU but pledged to implement ‘fair immigration rules’.
It said: “We will allow EU workers employed across farming, fishing and food manufacturing to remain in the UK,
and reinstate the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme.”
The manifesto also pledged to drop the Conservatives’ Great Repeal Bill, replacing it with an EU Rights and Protections Bill that it suggested would at least maintain the key environmental protections in place at EU level.
It said: “Throughout the Brexit process, we will make sure that all EU-derived laws that are of benefit, including
workplace laws, consumer rights and environmental protections – are fully protected without Tualifications,
limitations or sunset clauses.
Farming and environment pledges
Elsewhere, the manifesto includes most of the provisions affecting farmers, including scrapping the badger cull, banning neonicotinoids and bringing back the Agricultural Wages Board.
The document claimed: “Only a Labour government will prioritise a sustainable, long-term future for our farming, fishing and food industries, fund robust flood resilience, invest in rural and coastal communities, and guarantee the protection and advancement of environmental quality standards.
“The Conservatives’ threatened ‘bonfire of red tape’ is a threat to our environmental protections and
to the quality of our lives.”
It added: “Labour’s vision is for the UK to lead the world with high animal welfare standards in the wild, in farming and for domestic animals.”
Key pledges include:
- We will expand the role of the Groceries Code Adjudicator to ensure suppliers and consumers
get a fair deal
We will reconfigure funds for farming and fishing to support smaller traders, local economies, community benefits and sustainable practices
- We will reinstate the Agricultural Wages Board to underpin employment standards and wages
- We will protect our bees by prohibiting neonicotinoids as soon as our EU relationship allows us to do so.
- We will work with farmers and foresters to plant a million trees of native species to promote biodiversity and better flood management
- Unlike the Conservatives who attempted to privatise our forests, Labour will keep them in public hands.
- We will establish a science innovation fund, working with farmers and fisheries, that will include support for our small scale fishing fleet
- Labour will increase the maximum sentence for those convicted of committing animal cruelty.
- We will promote cruelty-free animal husbandry and consult on ways to ensure better enforcement of agreed standards
- We will cease the badger cull, which spreads bovine TB
- Only a Labour government will maintain the bans on deer hunting and hare coursing.
Overall, Labour has unveiled pledges costing £48.6bn, including billions for schools and the NHS, which it said would be funded from extra tax revenue – in its election manifesto, including Income tax increases to 45p for people earning over £80,000, and 50p for those on more than £123,000.
Other headline policies includes the nationalisation of England’s 10 water companies and scrapping university tuition fees.
Mr Corbyn said the manifesto was a ‘programme of hope’ and that all the pledges were costed. The Conservatives said the sums ‘don’t add up’.