Liam Fox under pressure to rule out adopting US food standards in Brexit trade deal with Trump

WPA Pool / GettyLiam Fox
  • Opposition MPs call on Liam Fox to categorically rule out the UK accepting US standards after Brexit.
  • On Monday, UK Trade Secretary Fox said the government would not “compromise” food standards in any post-Brexit trade deal with the US and described a BI story as “baseless” and “untrue.”
  • However, Labour has called on Fox to go further, and explicitly rule out US food standards being accepted after Brexit.
  • “If Liam Fox means what he says, he should categorically rule out any acceptance of US food standards in a possible trade deal,” Shadow Trade Minister Bill Esterson said.
  • Animal welfare groups have expressed concern about a possible UK-US free trade deal.

LONDON – Liam Fox is under pressure to categorically rule out the UK adopting US food standards in any post-Brexit free trade deal.

On Monday the UK Trade Secretary described a Business Insider story about US-produced food containing foreign bodies like maggots and mould possibly being exported to the UK after Brexit as “baseless” and “untrue.”

BI yesterday invited Fox to “categorically rule out the UK ever accepting US food and agricultural standard in any future UK-US free trade deal,” to which the pro-Brexit trade minister responded:

“I am happy to confirm that this government will not compromise British food or agricultural standards in any future UK-US free trading relationship. I hope this will put an end to this recurrent misreporting.”

However, MPs want Fox to go further and explicitly rule out the UK accepting any US standards on food. Fox has previously said he has “no objection” to controversial US products like chlorine-washed chicken which is banned in the EU.

Bill Esterson MP, Labour’s Shadow International Trade Minister, said: “The Conservatives must reject the unpalatable menu options which are being served up by US food producers.

“If Liam Fox means what he says, he should categorically rule out any acceptance of US food standards in a possible trade deal. UK families deserve better than this.”

He was joined by ex-Green party leader and People’s Vote supporter, Caroline Lucas, who told BI: “Liam Fox is in no position to lecture anyone about the truth. His claim that we can achieve a trade deal with the USA and maintain our high food standards is doublespeak.

“If he is so certain that negotiating with Donald Trump’s administration won’t result in lower safety and hygiene regulations, he should commit publicly to never accepting US food and agricultural standards as part of any trade deal.”

The EU has a strict set of rules when it comes to food and agriculture which has created trade barriers between the continent and the US. President Trump has previously criticised these “barriers” and Wilbur Ross, Trump’s Secretary of Commerce,said last October that scrapping strict EU standards in areas like food hygiene and agriculture would be a “critical component” to any post-Brexit UK-UK free trade deal.

Numerous US officials have been clear that the UK must move closer to US standards in order to sign a deep trade deal which covers food and agriculture, triggering fears about the potential impact on UK public health.

Sustain, a multi-group campaign for “better food farming,”published research earlier this year suggesting that the percentage of people who get food poisoning is ten times higher in the US than in the UK.

“The US reports higher rates of illness from foodborne illness than in the UK. Annually, 14.7% (48m) of the US population suffer from an illness, versus 1.5% (1m) in the UK,” Sustain warned.

Animal welfare charities and organisations have told BI they are worried about the government’s failure to categorically rule out the adoption of US standards.

Richard Griffiths, Chief Executive of the British Poultry Council, said “Britons demand safe, wholesome, and nutritious food; world-class animal welfare; production that respects the environment; food that is affordable and available; and a sustainable and secure supply chain. Our trading partners must respect that.”

Kierra Box, Brexit campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said the group is “continuing to hear rumours” about a possible UK-US free trade deal which would be “bad for the environment, animals and our health.”

She added: “It’s the difference between having a rule that says ‘don’t throw our food on the floor’ and one that says ‘all food must be washed before eating in case someone threw it on the floor.’ I know which I’d prefer!”

A poll published earlier this year found that an overwhelming majority of Brits were willing to ditch a post-Brexit deal with the US in order to protect UK’s animal welfare and food safety standards.

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.