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Welsh Labour candidate slams UK Government over trade deal ‘betrayal’

22 Nov 2023 5 minute read
Henry Tufnell with Labour leader Keir Starmer

Martin Shipton

A Welsh Labour general election candidate has accused Westminster Tory ministers of being “all talk and no action” after it emerged that geographical protections promised for regional Welsh specialties in the October 2020 UK-Japan trade deal have still not been delivered more than three years on.

When the post-Brexit agreement was announced, the UK Government promised that 77 new UK food and drink products would be guaranteed protected geographical indication (GI) status in Japan, alongside seven existing protections carried over from the previous EU-Japan trade deal, covering the likes of Scotch Whisky, Scottish Salmon, and Stilton Cheese.

GI status is vital for producers to protect them against competition in foreign markets from falsely-branded imitators. Securing such protections has become an important objective of modern trade deals to support the export potential of specialty food and drink products.

Of the 77 UK products awaiting GI status in Japan as many as 15 are from Wales: Anglesey sea salt, Conwy mussels, Pembrokeshire earlies, traditional Welsh Caerphilly cheese, Welsh beef, Welsh lamb, Welsh laverbread, Welsh regional wine; Welsh wine, Carmarthen ham, the Vale of Clwyd Denbigh plum, traditional Welsh cider, traditional Welsh perry, West Wales coracle caught salmon and West Wales coracle caught sewin.

Historic

At the time of the trade deal, then Trade Secretary Liz Truss said: “This is a historic moment for the UK and Japan. From our Welsh lamb and Pembrokeshire early potato farmers to our traditional Welsh cider breweries, this deal will create new opportunities for people throughout Wales and help level up the whole of the UK.” Her department originally said that all 77 new protections would be in place by May 2021, and boasted that – thanks to the agreement – the UK would benefit from a fast-track process for securing brand protection that “would not have been possible” under the EU-Japan deal, under which it said “the EU must negotiate each new GI individually on a case-by-case basis”.

But while the EU has added 84 extra products to its protected list since October 2020, including 28 more just a few weeks ago, the UK Government has yet to secure brand protection for a single one of the 77 products it originally promised. The EU’s number of GIs in Japan now stands at 291, while the UK is still stuck with only the seven protected products it inherited from the EU-Japan deal.

Harvests

Henry Tufnell, Welsh Labour’s general election candidate for the new seat of Mid and South Pembrokeshire, said: “Since Liz Truss announced her deal with Japan, we’ve had three harvests of Pembrokeshire Earlies, we’ve had three National Laverbread Days, we’ve had three seasons for Coracle Caught Sewin and Salmon, and yet we are still waiting for the geographical protections that were promised in that deal.

“It sums up so much of what is wrong with this Tory government. All talk and no action. Making promises they never keep. Boasting about things they haven’t delivered. Telling lies for the sake of a press release. And most of all, treating our farming and fishing communities with total contempt.

“And of course, what started out in that one-sided deal with Japan ended up with the shameful betrayal of the trade deals with Australia and New Zealand, where our farming communities in Wales were sold out by Westminster just so the Tories could claim their rotten Brexit deal was working.

“Neither Simon Hart or Stephen Crabb [Pembrokeshire’s two current Tory MPs] have said a word about the way local food and drink producers in Pembrokeshire have been let down and lied to. We are only going to get the results we need once we have a Labour MP in Mid and South Pembrokeshire, and a Labour government in Downing Street working with our Welsh Labour Government in Cardiff Bay.

“But I’m not prepared to wait that long. I have written to the Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch to remind her of the promises that were made to our region, and demand that she takes action to secure the long-overdue protections that our specialty exporters need and deserve.”

Iconic

The candidate for Mid and South Pembrokeshire has been backed up by Labour’s Shadow Trade Minister, Gareth Thomas, who has repeatedly raised the issue of the missing GIs in Parliament. He told Nation.Cymru: “Henry is absolutely right to ask these questions. Iconic Welsh producers were not only promised that they would receive protection under this deal, but also saw their products used by the government to promote the benefits of a deal that otherwise offered little new to British exporters or the UK economy.

“Three years on, those Welsh producers are entitled to ask why the government’s promises have not been kept, and tell them to get on with it, especially since we’ve already had to watch 84 additional EU products receive protected status in Japan in the same time that we’ve been waiting for ours.”

A Department for Business and Trade spokesperson responded: “We have a strong trading relationship with Japan – worth over £28 billion a year – and our historic trade deal helped pave the way to join CPTPP, opening the doors to new export opportunities.

“Securing geographical indication status for food and drink products by amending trade agreements can be a lengthy technical process. The Trade Secretary raised this important issue on her recent visit to Japan and we continue to work with the Japanese Government to address it.”

A UK Government source said: “The UK and Japan are in the process of completing the technical and legislative processes required for listing these food and drink products that benefit from geographical indication status, and we have seen significant progress towards finalising these processes.

“Our world-class free trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand represent a significant milestone in our strong bilateral relationship and represents a deepening of ties with close friends and allies as well as a key part of the UK’s tilt towards the growing Indo-Pacific region.


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NOT Grayham Jones
NOT Grayham Jones
3 months ago

I recall this man is the Labour candidate who is landed gentry and has only a second home connection with Wales. Wonder what the founding fathers of Labour would think of him!

Sarah Good
Sarah Good
3 months ago

Time moves on. Things change. If the electorate see him as a viable representative then that’s up to them. If not, there’s always Plaid Cymru, Greens or, as a last resort Lib Dems. (Because nobody with an ounce of sanity would vote Tory in 2024)

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
3 months ago
Reply to  Sarah Good

Grayham makes an important point. It may well that this candidate – or indeed any other – has excellent qualifications for serving in Westminster. However, ultimately any MP does have a clear duty to represent the area for which he or she has been elected and that requires an understanding of that area, its people, problems and opportunities. I fear from what I have learned about this particular candidate that if successful he will see his role as cannon fodder for Westminster Labour and looking after his (not well known) constituency will be well down the list; like so many… Read more »

Jim
Jim
3 months ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

Anybody that’s taken the time to speak to him, like the businesses and institutions across Pembrokeshire, will know that’s palpably untrue

Jeff
Jeff
3 months ago

Truss eh. What a star she turned out to be, anyone at the time could have told you it was going to fail but yeah, brexit benefits. Blue passports, winning!

I notice the Cons spokes being using the same old trope, “world beating”. Boris tried that with covid and look what happened. Thousand died that could have been saved.

hdavies15
hdavies15
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

They are world beating at plumbing new depth of despair for the people.

karl
karl
3 months ago

Brexit is about the rich few, not about protecting anything else. there is no way the current LAbour party would protect anything, they won’t even mention brexit. They are gutless and desperate for the gamon vote.

Gareth
Gareth
3 months ago

If he wants to represent a constituency in Cymru he should be looking at things that matter to our country, not the UK GI label, which only applies in Cymru Scotlland and England, it means nothing in the big wide world.And dont worry about exporting lamb to Japan, they dont eat it.

hdavies15
hdavies15
3 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

Prats who design these deals and engage in negotiation seldom have a clue about what’s really relevant. They work on a narrow sectional interest and chuck some other stuff in as ballast.

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