THE PRESIDENT of a farmers' union has warned the "future of British food and farming is at stake" after MPs rejected an amendment to the Agricultural Bill aimed at protecting UK food standards.

As reported, despite voting for the House of Lords amendment to the Agriculture Bill, Romsey and Southampton North's Caroline Nokes – as well as 13 of her party colleagues – were defeated by 332 votes to 279 on Monday night.

If added to the Bill, it would have required agricultural and food imports to meet domestic standards.

Peers had made the change to block the import of foodstuffs produced abroad with lower animal welfare standards, amid warnings over chlorinated chicken or hormone-treated beef entering the UK market from the US.

But the Government argued that existing protections are already in place and they have no intention of watering them down.

President of the National Farmers' Union (NFU), Minette Batters, said: "Once again the Commons has debated the Agriculture Bill without any binding commitments on how to safeguard our farmers’ high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection in our trade policy.

“While I was very heartened to hear many MPs express support for safeguarding our food standards, it was particularly disappointing that they were unable to vote on Lord Curry’s amendment that would strengthen the role of the Trade and Agriculture Commission and with it the role of Parliament to have proper scrutiny of new trade deals.

“The future of British food and farming is at stake. "Without proper safeguards on future trade deals, we risk seeing an increase in food imports that have been produced to standards that would be illegal here."

Romsey Advertiser: She added: "I hope the Agriculture Bill returning to the House of Lords gives a new opportunity for the Lords to put forward an amendment that will give the Commission more teeth and enable MPs to have their say; one that can be heard by the House of Commons, with a final vote to see those safeguards put in place.”

NFU south east communications adviser, Isobel Bretherton, said: "We want to thank Caroline Nokes and all those MPs who voted for the amendment to back British farming and defend our world-class food production standards.

"The Bill now heads back to Lords and we are discussing next steps with peers and other lobbying organisations.”

Ahead of the debate, a tractor demonstration took place in central London as farmers demanded food standards are upheld in post-Brexit trade deals.