Ministers vow 'no compromise' on food standards in UK-US deal amid chlorine chicken fears
The UK will not lower its food and animal welfare standards in US trade talks, ministers have promised.
In a negotiating mandate for the upcoming talks published on Monday, the Department for International Trade (DIT) said there would be “no compromise” on current standards.
The document also reiterated the Government’s promise to shield the NHS from US corporations, saying that it “is not, and never will be, for sale to the private sector, whether overseas or domestic".
And it put forward how much a UK-US trade deal would benefit the economy - suggesting GDP could increase by between 0.07% and 0.16% in the long run.
The Government’s pledge on animal welfare comes amid concern that food practices currently illegal in the UK could become commonplace in a post-Brexit deal with the US.
Respondents to a public consultation on the proposed trade pact repeatedly raised the issue.
“Concerns were raised around US food standards in a number of areas, including use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), “hormone-fed or injected beef”, over-use of pesticides, 'chlorine-washed chicken' and levels of preservatives or additives,” the document said.
In response, the Government said it "recognises respondents’ concerns about food standards and animal welfare".
And it added: "Now we have left the EU, the UK will decide how we set and maintain our own standards and regulations and we have been clear that we will not compromise on our high standards of food safety and animal welfare.”
"The UK’s reputation for high quality food and agricultural products is recognised internationally and underpins our exports of these products."
Animal welfare concerns are also set to be a key sticking point in UK-EU negotiations, which began in Brussels on Monday.
EU officials have stated that the UK must keep its ban on chlorinated chicken if it wants to secure a post-Brexit trade deal with the bloc.
Last month, the Environment Secretary George Eustice failed to rule out a ban on importing chlorin-washed chicken from America after Brexit.
He would only say the Government had “no plans” to allow poultry treated that way into the UK, pointing out that most US producers no longer use that method.
His comments came despite his predecessor, Theresa Villiers, explicitly stating that the ban on chlorine-washed poultry and hormone-fed beef would stay in place in any UK-US trade deal.
Elsewhere in the 184-page document on a US deal, the Government proedicted that a tie-up with America could boost UK GDP in the long run by between 0.7% to 0.16%.
That would add £1.6bn to £3.4bn to the UK economy.
But critics of Britain's exit from the European Union warned that the extra growth would fail to offset the impact of fresh trade barriers with the EU if post-Brexit talks on that deal collapse.
Labour MP Darren Jones said: "0.16% growth in GDP from a UK-US trade deal? That’ll do the job if we walk away from getting a trade deal with the EU."
Liberal Democrat trade spokesperson Sarah Olney said: "Boris Johnson has repeatedly claimed that negative impacts of Brexit will pale in comparison to the benefits. But today’s analysis is clear: the gains from the best-case trade deal with Donald Trump will not come close to outweighing what we expect to lose from leaving the EU.
"The situation will be even more catastrophic if Boris Johnson sends the UK careering off a no-deal cliff edge, thanks to his self-imposed June deadline for talks. It is astounding that the Prime Minister is seemingly hellbent on risking UK prosperity."
Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner meanwhile accused ministers of making "false promises" on standards and the protection of public services.
The Labour frontbencher added: "This is a government that has sought, at every opportunity, to resist efforts to lock in our high standards and to ensure robust protections for our NHS."