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Michael Gove: I would block trade deal with US over chlorine-washed chickens

Emilio Casalicchio

2 min read

Michael Gove today vowed to veto any trade deal with the United States that would see the UK importing chicken carcasses bathed in chlorine.

The Environment Secretary said Britain would not accept “a dilution of environmental or animal welfare standards”.

The issue blew up after Trade Secretary Liam Fox suggested it could be open for discussion during a visit to Washington in July.

Chlorine-washed chickens are banned by the EU on welfare grounds. Therefore it will be one of the many regulations the UK can take or leave once it quits the bloc.

Mr Gove said in July the UK will not compromise on animal welfare in pursuit of trade, but today he went further during an appearance before MPs on the Environment Select Committee.

Conservative chair Neil Parish asked: “We are right down to the deal with the US and we are about to agree but the one sticking point is whether we accept chicken that have been washed in chlorinate.

“Are you actually sitting there and telling me bluntly and telling this committee that that will hold up the whole trade deal, when it’s perfectly safe to eat under WTO rules?”

Mr Gove replied: “Yes.”

He added: “While we want free trade with the United States and other what we do not want to see is a dilution of environmental or animal welfare standards.”

And he went on: “We cannot compromise on high environmental standards in pursuit of a trade deal.

“In a way it would be harmful to us to do so. Not just harmful in environmental terms, but harmful also because if we think about British produce, we compete and we sell on a basis of quality.

“And if we were to undermine the high reputation that British agriculture has earned by seeming to compromise on those standards, in a way we would be tarnishing the brand.

“That would be counter-productive economically, as well as the wrong thing in its own terms.” 

Elsewhere in the hearing he said the Government could cap the amount of cash any individual organisation can receive in farm subsidies after Brexit.

And asked about his relationship with fellow ministerial Brexiteers David Davis and Liam Fox he said they were like “brothers from a different mother.”

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