MINISTERS came under fire for refusing to enshrine a promise to safeguard standards for imported food into law.
Boris Johnson has repeatedly pledged not to allow post-Brexit trade deals to water down current rules that ban controversial products such as chlorinated chicken or hormone treated beef from the United States.
But it has emerged the vow was omitted from the Agriculture Bill, published this week, that lays out a new regime for farming after Britain’s EU exit.
The move gives the government wiggle room when negotiating a major new free trade agreement with the United States.
Agriculture is major issues for US Congressmen and Senators, who are expected to block any new deal that doesn’t allow America’s farmers better access to Britain’s market.
But it left farmers angry, who insisted cheaper imports with lower hygiene standards would undercut their products.
The National Farming Union said: “Farmers across the country will still want to see legislation underpinning the government’s assurances that they will not allow the imports of food produced to standards that would be illegal here through future trade deals.
“We will continue to press the government to introduce a standards commission as a matter of priority to oversee and advise on future food trade policy and negotiations.”
Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers repeated the PM’s pledge only last week, telling the Oxford Farming Conference that the government would rather have no trade deal at all rather than one that lowered food standards.
UK’S ‘HIGH STANDARDS’
Ms Villiers said: “Please be reassured. We will not dilute our high standards of food safety and animal welfare.
“In our forthcoming trade negotiations, this Government will be prepared to walk away from those negotiations if that is in the national interest.”
No10 added last night: “We have made this commitment a number of times. There will be no reduction in food standards after Brexit”.
Meanwhile, Europe’s Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan yesterday tore in to the PM’s hopes of getting a full trade deal with the EU in place by the end of the year, dubbing it “just not possible”.
Irish politician Mr Hogan insisted: “Certainly by the end of the year we are not going to get everything that’s in the 36-page document on the future relationship agreed, because Prime Minister Johnson decided we are going to have everything concluded by the end of the year.”
Calling on Mr Johnson to change his mind and agree to extend the transition period for longer talks, he added: “I think we’ve seen that putting ourselves into timelines in the last few years have not been that helpful, especially in the way it played out in the House of Commons”.
The skirmish came as German leader Angela Merkel warned Brussels that Brexit is “a wake up call” for the EU.
The German Chancellor said she was worried the UK could pose a serious economic threat to the EU, and the bloc has to lift its game to stay relevant.
The Sun Says
IT would be madness to throw up barriers killing a US trade deal at birth.
So the new Agriculture Bill rightly gives the Government wiggle room over what food we could import.
Remainers’ scaremongering over America’s “chlorinated chicken” was a ruse to obstruct Brexit. The left piled in for another chance to attack Trump.
But it is simply not a “lower standard” of food, as 4.5million Brits who visit the US each year will attest. US chicken treated with an extremely dilute chlorine solution has a far lower rate of salmonella infection than EU chicken.
Nor is it credible to complain that the practice disguises unacceptable cruelty in the mass production of poultry, given how blithely we accept our own.
Brexit Britain must be open to deals with America and everywhere else. That involves importing their produce.
Of course consumers must not be exposed to inferior or unsafe grub.
But let’s deal in facts, not politically driven hysteria.