Michael Gove slaps down Liam Fox as Cabinet row over chlorinated chicken reignites

Posted On: 
1st November 2017

Michael Gove has insisted chlorinated chicken from the US will not be sold in the UK after Brexit - just hours after Liam Fox told MPs he had "no problem" with it.

Environment Secretary MIchael Gove appeared in front of the Environmental Audit Select Committee this aftrenoon

In a fresh slap-down for his Cabinet colleague, the Environment Secretary said EU animal welfare standards currently banning the sale of chlorinated chicken would not be softened after Brexit.  

This directly contradicted remarks made earlier by the International Trade Secretary, who said he had “no objection” to the product as there were “no health reasons” to ban it.

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Speaking at a select committee this afternoon, Mr Gove suggested Dr Fox's comments could be attributed to him being a “medical doctor,” but said the Government’s position on the issue would not change. 

“The Government’s position on animal welfare standards is clear and consistent… When it comes to animal welfare standards we simply shan’t compromise them,” he said.

The prospect of importing birds from America treated in a chemical bath raised alarm when it was mooted earlier this year as a possible consequence of a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.

The suggestion was immediately ruled out by Mr Gove, who said in July: “All members of the Government are agreed that we are not going to dilute our high animal welfare standards or our high environmental standards in pursuit of any trade deal."

However, speaking this morning Dr Fox told the International Trade Committee: “There are no health reasons why you couldn’t eat chlorinated chicken.

“Most of the salads in our supermarkets are rinsed in chlorinated water and in terms of reduction of Campylobacter food poisoning, the US has in general much lower levels of Campylobacter food poisoning than most countries in Europe...

“I have no objection to the British public being sold anything that’s safe as long as they know what they’re eating. 

“I’m a great believer in giving the British public the choice over what we eat as long as it’s safe, then should be the guiding principle.”

Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said: “This shows why you shouldn’t put a Fox in charge of the hen house.

"Weakening our food safety standards would be bad news for British consumers and also for farmers who would face new checks and barriers when selling into the EU.

"Conservative ministers like Liam Fox are trying to impose a vision of Brexit on the country that nobody voted for.  

"This whole sorry saga shows why we must give the British people the final say on Brexit, with a chance to stay in the EU."