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MPs divided over how best to back Cumbrian farmers

Cumbria's Conservative MPs have come down on both sides of a Parliamentary debate over how Britain does deals on international agricultural trade after leaving the EU.

Herdwick sheep

The government's Trade Bill, which paves the way for post-Brexit agreements, is going through Parliament at the moment, and farmers fear it allows agreements that open the door to low-cost imports from countries where welfare and environmental standards are lower.

Some Conservative MPs have tried to amend it, to reduce the risk British farmers would be undercut and to give Parliament more oversight of treaties, but the proposed changes were voted down.

The Barrow Conservative MP Simon Fell voted with the government, and says it will achieve the protection objectors want.

I don't think we could not be more explicit, we will not weaken those standards, we will not allow food of poorer quality into the UK."

Simon Fell

But the Penrith MP Dr Neil Hudson has rebelled against the party line on several occasions on the issue..

I will continue to stand up for our Cumbrian farmers and push that the Government continue to uphold our high animal health and welfare and environmental standards in any future trade deals.”

Dr Neil Hudson

Farmers fear worldwide trade deals could 'undermine' them

Farmers in Cumbria say the trade agreements the UK strikes now it is out of the EU could mean they face competition from countries where standards and costs are lower.

Swaledale sheep

They say the government's trade bill, currently passing through Parliament, does not require agreements to insist that meat and other agricultural products have to be produced to the same standards as the law requires British farmers meet.

Several attempts to amend the legislation in the Commons have failed.

Will Cockbain, who farms near Keswick, says meeting the standards such as allowing animals more space, or less use of antibiotics, means he has costs that farmers in other countries don't.

It's important when we've come this far and got these standards that we are not undermined by the importation of products that are lower both in environmental standards and welfare standards."

Will Cockbain