FAILING to adopt a ‘core standards’ approach to animal welfare and the environment while negotiating free trade agreements might lead to the UK exporting its 'cruelty and carbon emissions' abroad.

An influential cross party committee of MPs this week called on the Government to formally commit to upholding the UK's well-established animal welfare and environmental standards in all post-Brexit trade deals.

Reporting on the free trade agreement with Australia, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee quoted Government adviser Henry Dimbleby's warning about 'exporting cruelty and carbon' – but conceded that the Australia free trade deal as it stood would not prevent core standards being adopted in the future, and it was unlikely in the meantime that much food that doesn’t meet these UK would enter the country because of this deal.

However, the committee also argued that the UK should committing to standards on matters such as deforestation and the use of hormone growth chemicals in meat ahead of any future negotiations.

The government estimates that the Australia free trade agreement – which removes tariffs on a wide range of imports from Australia, including beef and sheep meat, sugar and wine – will boost the UK economy by £2.3bn (or 0.08%) by 2035, but that some sectors including farming will lose out.

Read more: UK animal welfare is amongst the best – if farmers abide by the rules

UK cattle and sheep farmers have been among those most concerned about the Australian deal, with witnesses telling the committee they feared that factors such as the cheaper costs of production on Australia’s much larger farms, as well as lower animal welfare standards in Australia, would allow Australian exporters to undercut them in UK shops.

The new EFRA Committee chair, Sir Robert Goodwill MP, said: “While we heard from some witnesses that it appears unlikely this deal will have a significant immediate impact on UK farmers, the government needs to carefully monitor the situation and learn lessons for future trade deals.

“The government must commit to helping the food and farming sector win back the £278m worth of lost growth it will experience because of this deal. There’s a plan to appoint new trade envoys to push our exports. We welcome that, but we also need to see the Government commit to – and deliver on – the £278m target for additional exports to ensure the sector is no worse off. If that requires other export promotion strategies, then they must be implemented. We will be watching the numbers and holding the government to account.

“Secondly, we want our high UK animal welfare and environmental standards baked into every trade deal we do from now on," insisted Sir Robert. "The Government has done well protecting our rules on beef hormone growth chemicals, but having ‘core standards’ in all deals would strengthen our hand when negotiating with other countries. Some nations will no doubt want to challenge these rules – and similar bans on things like chlorine-washed chicken – so it’s vital to have our high standards in there right from the start.

”It’s all part of the government needing to listen more carefully to our farmers and food producers. They have the expertise to help us get better deals all round – let's use it.”