- Britain could be forced to accept chlorine-washed chicken, lactic acid sprayed pork and hormone-grown beef.
- Liam Fox reportedly favours relaxation of rules in order to secure free trade deal with the US.
- EU has opposed chemical washing due to safety and hygiene fears.
- International Trade Secretary attacks BBC as he begins US trade trip.
LONDON — Britain could be forced to accept chlorine-washed chickens as part of its post-Brexit trade deal with the US, under plans being pushed by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox.
Chlorinated chicken is currently banned from import under EU rules, along with the use of growth hormones in beef farming, the spraying of pig carcasses with lactic acid and the sale of unlabelled genetically modified food.
Europe has opposed the use of chemical cleaning due both to safety concerns and the fears that they could lead to laxer hygiene practices elsewhere in the supply chain.
However, the dropping of these rules is set to be part of future trade talks between the US and UK. The American Farming Association has previously insisted that Britain must come into line with the US.
Fox is reportedly in favour of dropping the rules despite disagreement with other members of Theresa May’s Cabinet, including the Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
The row comes as Fox visits Washington as part of preliminary talks over a possible future free trade deal with the US.
Talking to the BBC, Fox said that Britain could increase trade with the US by £40bn a year by 2030 “if we’re able to remove the barriers to trade that we have”.
He acknowledged that “Agriculture’s always a very difficult issue,” but added “It will be a difficult discussion . . . but we’ve got great support from the United States and the administration as well as Congress to help push the agenda forward.”
Britain is prohibited from entering formal talks about a free trade deal with the US until it has left the EU. However, Fox believes that this week’s visit will form part of scoping the shape of any future talks.
Fox accuses BBC of Brexit bias
Fox used the start of his visit to launch an attack on the BBC for what he believes is its biased coverage of Brexit.
In a letter to BBC Director General Tony Hall, Fox accused the broadcaster of “a clear pattern of unbalanced reporting,” of what he believes is the positive economic impact of Brexit.
“I understand that the BBC cannot cover every story and I appreciate too that, despite its best efforts, the corporation cannot always guarantee total impartiality,” Fox wrote
“However, I believe that we are now seeing a clear pattern of unbalanced reporting of the UK economy and, when it comes to the work of my department, evidence of the corporation wilfully ignoring positive economic data when we publish it.”
Fox was accused of trying to intimidate the broadcaster.
“This is a blatant attempt at intimidating the BBC and undermining the independence of our media,” Liberal Democrat chief whip, Alistair Carmichael said.
“The BBC shouldn’t be bullied into publishing government propaganda and has rightly stood its ground.”
“Liam Fox is acting like a tinpot dictator. He can’t blame the media for his inability to deliver on all the trade deals promised by the Brexiteers.”
A spokesperson for the BBC said: “We do not recognise the characterisation of our coverage outlined in the letter, but the BBC is always happy to talk with politicians as we always do on a regular basis.”
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