The international trade secretary, Liam Fox, has back-peddled on the row over chlorinated chicken, a day after Donald Trump’s most senior trade adviser said a US-UK trade deal hinged on scrapping EU food standards regulations,
On Monday, Wilbur Ross, the US commerce secretary, suggested any post-Brexit deal with Washington would hinge on the UK scrapping some EU rules that hinder imports of US chicken washed in chlorine or other products currently prohibited.
Fox responded by stating the British public will not accept the diluting of animal welfare standards, although he has previously been sympathetic to allowing more US foods in, arguing in favour of ‘consumer choice’. Fox said there would need to be consultation before any new trade deal.
The debate has opened up a rift in the Cabinet, with Michael Gove – secretary of state at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – repeatedly saying Defra will not allow UK food standards to be weakened.
The British Poultry Council welcomed Fox’s position on the need for a wider consultation before signing any new trade deal. BPC chief executive Richard Griffiths said the talks around US chlorine-washed chicken entering our home market show lack of coherent Government safeguards for UK food and farming and risks eroding domestic supply chains as well as the ‘farm to fork’ model of transparency prized by consumers.
“We welcome Government’s support towards our vision for a food system that speaks to the public good, backs British farmers and producers, and protects our food values and high standards of production, which have been hard won through years of experience. Brexit is an opportunity to enhance rather than diminish British food values that secure not just affordability and availability for the people but stand up for the quality of our food from ‘farm to fork’.
“Government’s confidence in our world-leading farming standards and commitment towards not letting any potential trade deal dilute our high standards of production is something farmers up and down the country truly deserve. Our Government’s support sends out a clear message, not only to our producers and consumers, but also to other nations, that the UK believes in and back our standards, our food, and our businesses.
“The British Poultry meat industry stands committed to feeding the nation with safe, nutritious and affordable food without any compromise on standards. A secure post-Brexit deal must be about Britain’s future food security and safety. It is a matter of our reputation on the global stage.”