A Brexit trade deal with Trump would put British farmers under 'severe threat' warns former ambassador to US

Larry French / Getty Images for Capitol File MagazineSir Peter Westmacott at the British Embassy in Washington, 2015.
  • Sir Peter Westmacott, Britain’s former ambassador to the United States, has warned that Britain would be forced to open up its markets to cheap American meat as the “price” of any new bilateral trade deal with Washington.
  • The ambassador also warned that the US would demand that Britain opened up its markets to cheap imports of American meat, which would place British farmers under “severe threat.”
  • Currently, strict EU legislation bans the import of cheaply produced American products such as hormone-treated meat, genetically modified vegetables.
  • Britain will decide whether those bans stay in place after Brexit, but Washington appears determined that any trade deal will hinge on the UK scrapping them.

LONDON – A post-Brexit trade deal with the US trade risks putting the future of British farms under “severe threat,” the UK’s former ambassador to the US has warned.

Sir Peter Westmacott, who served in Washington during the Obama era between 2012 and 2016, told Business Insider that Trump’s administration would force Britain to open up its markets to cheap American meat as the “price” of any new bilateral trade deal with Washington.

This echoes a growing concern among Britain’s farming community that a deal risks obliterating Britain’s domestic agriculture sector.

“The moment you’ve got Delaware chickens being sold across the United Kingdom, and mass produced, hormone-enhanced beef and lamb competing with our niche farmers in the Welsh and Scottish highlands, many of our farmers and poultry producers will be under severe threat,” said Westmacott.

“The imported chicken may not taste very good and it may be chlorine-washed, but it will be very competitively priced,” he said. “That is going to be the price of a free trade agreement.”

Currently, strict EU legislation bans the import of cheaply produced American products such as chlorinated chicken, hormone-treated meat, genetically modified vegetables, and milk containing antibiotics on health grounds.

After it leaves the EU, Britain will decide whether those bans stay in place, but Washington appears determined that any trade deal will hinge on the UK scrapping them.

Wilbur Ross, the US commerce secretary and a key Trump ally, warned in November last year that changing the regulations would form a “critical component of any trade discussion” with London, and suggested that the UK should also remove “unnecessary regulatory divergences” with the United States.

Moves to lift the bans are likely to be opposed by a majority of British farmers because American products are typically much cheaper than domestically produced ones.

Environment secretary Michael Gove has previously insisted that the UK would avoid any deal which required it to accept lower environmental and health standards.

“Any future trade deal must work for UK farmers, businesses and consumers,” he told the BBC Radio 4 programme last year.

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