HEXHAM’S MP Guy Opperman has been accused of letting down the district’s farmers, by one of his former political rivals.

Nick Morphet stood against Mr Opperman, as a Green Party candidate for the Hexham constituency at last year’s General Election.

Now six months after the Hexham MP retained his seat, Mr Morphet has taken him to task over the Agriculture Bill, which will replace the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in the UK.

Mr Opperman voted in favour of the Bill, and against an amendment, which which would have protected farmers from lower standard food imports.

In last week’s Courant, Mr Opperman insisted he had been given assurances from the government that there would be “no compromise” over food standards.

But Mr Morphet said: “He fails to acknowledge that global markets could have a negative impact on British producers.”

"The recently announced dual tariff system, which will subject low standard imports to higher tariffs, is papering over the cracks at best – there are no guarantees whatsoever that tariffs won’t be lowered or scrapped.

"By voting against the trade amendment, Mr Opperman became complicit in the government’s perfidious manoeuvres. When forced to choose between self-interested party loyalty and supporting his constituents in the agricultural sector, our MP chose the former over the farmer."

In response, Mr Opperman said: "In all of the UK’s trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.

"Whilst I agree with the aspirations behind the amendments proposed to the Bill at the report stage – a thriving domestic agriculture industry, and promoting our high animal welfare and environmental standards abroad – they did not adhere to the World Trade Organisation’s sanitary and phytosanitary agreement, and as such, were totally unworkable and unenforceable.

"High food standards and exemplary animal welfare practices are the hallmarks of British farming and will be at the heart of its success in selling its products across the globe.

"This secure future for our farming industry depends on access to markets around the world, and the reality is that the amendments offered to the Bill would have undermined that future."