CUMBRIAN farm and business leaders have joined forces in the fight to protect post-Brexit food deals.

They say the move to persuade Westminster to require imported food to meet domestic legal standards from January 1 will go on.

MPs voted last week in the Commons to strike down a Lords amendment to the Agriculture Bill to force trade deals to meet UK animal welfare and food safety rules.

Campaigners have warned that the UK could be forced to accept lower standards to secure a future US trade deal.

But farming minister Victoria Prentis said the government was “absolutely committed to high standards”.

However, Cumbrian campaigners have voiced their ‘disappointment and frustration’ over the rejection of the amendment to the Agriculture Bill.

Adam Day, managing director of the Farmer Network, based in Penrith, said: “Cumbria as a county is one of the country’s largest producers of both red meat and milk. There are significant changes just around the corner for UK agriculture. By supporting the amendment the Government could have offered the farming community and the wider public much-needed confidence and reassurance on future food standards. It failed and very many people in Cumbria feel let down.”

Craig Brough, head of Hope’s Land Agency at Wigton, said it was very disappointing to see that again party politics has come before food security and the health of a nation. “The amendments which Neil Parish sought to the Bill and were supported by the House of Lords go much wider than just protecting UK agriculture in terms of health and the environment and as such MPs, including our own Carlisle MP who chose to just follow the party line rather than promote our high welfare standards, have once again let us down,” said Mr Brough, whose family farm at Buckabank, Dalston.

Ian Bowness, the National Farmers Union (NFU) Cumbrian county chairman, said: “On my farm in Wigton, I’m proud to produce milk to world-leading standards. It’s therefore extremely frustrating that our government has so far refused to support calls from an extraordinary alliance of farmers, environmentalists, chefs and animal welfare organisations, not to mention the one million members of the public who signed an NFU petition, all urging the government to take action to ensure our high standards are protected.”

He added: “The farming industry has come a long way in a short period. The million-strong petition shows that people care passionately about where their food comes from and they don’t want to see our world-leading environmental and animal welfare standards undermined.”

Richard Pedley, National Farmers Union (NFU) Uplands Forum Representative says 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 in the UK”

Mr Pedley, who farms Swaledale sheep, Mule ewes and Blue Faced Leicesters with his parents at Ellerbeck in Barbon, near Carnforth, says "disappointment, frustration, and disbelief followed the recent vote on the amendment to the Agriculture Bill, which saw 332 MPs vote against upholding UK Food and Animal Welfare Standards".

“These MPs chose to ignore the demands of the British public, instead choosing to put the future health of ourselves and our children at risk by the very real possibility that fruit and veg sprayed with pesticides illegal in the UK, chlorinated washed chicken, and hormone reared beef grown and produced with little or no regard for the environment, could soon be on our supermarket shelves. We deserve better from our Government,” he added.