THE Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called on the Prime Minister to back British farmers by guaranteeing the UK’s high food and farming standards in law after Brexit.

Ahead of a visit to National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Minette Batters’ farm in Wiltshire, Sir Keir warned that without action to protect standards there was a “real risk” of lower-quality food ending up on British plates.

He has written to Boris Johnson urging amendments to the Agriculture Bill, which sets out farming policy after Brexit, to guarantee high standards and stop imports of lower-quality food.

The call comes amid growing concern that post-Brexit trade deals could allow imports of food produced in ways that would be illegal in the UK, undercutting British farmers and lowering standards for produce available to consumers.

The Government has made repeated pledges that high environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards will be maintained, and food such as chicken washed in chlorine and beef from cattle fed with hormones will not be allowed in the UK.

However, the Conservatives have rebuffed attempts to include the protections in the Agriculture Bill going through Parliament, arguing existing laws already enshrine them and they have no intention of watering them down.

The NFU has led calls for the Government to put into law rules that prevent lower standard food being imported to the UK, with a million people signing a petition backing the move.

A survey for Which? found nearly three-quarters of people did not think food from countries with lower standards should be on sale in the UK, and several supermarkets have pledged not to stock such foods.

Sir Keir said: “No one wants lower-quality food on our plates, but unless the Prime Minister shows some leadership and backs British farmers there is a real risk this could happen.”

In his letter to the PM, he said: “I want our country to produce the best food in the world, where our farmers compete on the basis of quality and are not undermined by producers working to lower standards elsewhere.

“Britain should be a beacon of quality, high standards, ethical treatment of animals and environmental protections in all aspects of food production.”

He said the Agriculture Bill offered the next opportunity to ensure high food and farming standards were put into law, and urged the PM to work with Labour to amend the Bill to guarantee them.

Shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard, who is also visiting Ms Batters’ farm to show Labour’s support for the NFU “back British farming” campaign, added: “No deal with the US or anywhere else is worth trading away our high values.”

Labour says it also wants the new Trade and Agriculture Commission, set up following calls from the NFU, to be able to assess each trade deal against core standards and ensure “proper” parliamentary oversight.