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Liam Fox plans to scrap EU food standards to win Brexit trade deal with Trump

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Liam Fox
International Trade
Secretary Liam Fox

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  • Exclusive: Liam Fox is planning to scrap EU food
    standards using controversial “Henry the 8th” powers, multiple
    sources have told Business Insider.
  • The UK trade secretary wants to use government powers
    to rewrite UK food standards in order to strike a post-Brexit
    trade deal with the Trump administration.
  • Sources claim Fox wants to alter food standards through
    the Trade Bill. A government spokesperson denied the bill would
    be used to lower standards.
  • Labour accuses Fox of risking putting UK “farmers and
    food producers out of business.”
  • The UK will need to lower its food standards to sign a
    comprehensive trade deal with the US.

 

LONDON — Liam Fox is planning to use controversial “Henry the
8th” powers to scrap European food standards in order to pave the
way for a trade deal with the US after Brexit.

Theresa May’s government has insisted that they will not water
down EU regulations which currently prohibit the sale of products
such as chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef in Britain.

However, Fox and Crawford Falconer, the UK’s chief trade
negotiation adviser, have privately discussed rewriting UK food
standards through the upcoming Trade Bill, a well-placed source
with Fox’s Department for International Trade told Business
Insider.

Fox’s plans were confirmed by another government source as well
as two sources who work closely with his department.

“Nothing is completely off the table. We are going to keep the
same high level of health and safety standards but we are on
course to negotiate with the US for an FTA and that will require
compromise,” a government source said.

UK food standards currently mirror those of the EU.  The EU
enforces stringent rules and regulations on food and the
environment. These prohibit contentious agricultural products
like chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-treated beef from
entering EU markets, including the UK’s.

However, Fox believes the UK should diverge from EU rules after
Brexit in order to sign wide-ranging free trade deals with
countries with lower standards.

 Trade experts have warned that
any post-Brexit UK-US trade deal will likely require the UK to
abandon the EU’s food standards. Sir Peter Westmacott, the UK’s
former ambassador to the US, told BI that US-produced
agricultural products would also be produced at a “relatively low
cost,” posing a threat to UK farmers. 

A government spokesperson denied that the Trade bill would be
used to lower food standards after Brexit.

“It is not true that the Trade Bill will lower UK food standards
and to suggest otherwise is false,” they said.

Outfoxed by Gove


michael gove liam fox
Liam
Fox and Michael Gove

Getty

Fox has previously defended the potential sale of chlorinated
chicken in the UK.

“There are no health reasons why you couldn’t eat chickens that
have been washed in chlorinated water,” the Trade Secretary told
MPs last year.

However, Fox’s push to reduce UK food standards have been
resisted by Michael Gove’s Department for Environment,
who are wary that it would contradict Gove’s promise not to
compromise environmental standards.

“DEFRA and DIT are not pals,” a source who has worked with DIT
said.

“DEFRA have a big trade team now which sees its mandate as
stopping DIT from doing silly things. BEIS (Department for
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) are also gearing up to
battle DIT, but are further behind in the process.

Gove has previously publicly dismissed suggestions that the UK
should lower standards in order to win a deal with the US.

“The Cabinet is agreed that there should be no compromise
on high animal welfare and environmental standards. In America
they cannot guarantee the same high standards in terms of how
chickens are reared that we insist on here,” he told MPs last
year.

“Unless there is a change in the American side, we would
say that those animal welfare rules are things on which we will
not compromise.”

‘Nightmare scenario’ for British consumers


McDonalds chicken selectsFacebook/McDonald’s

Fox’s apparent determination to push ahead with plans to alter
food standards after Brexit comes as the prime minister comes
under renewed pressure to abandon plans to sign up Britain to
continued regulatory alignment with the EU after Brexit.

The Initiative for Free Trade, a right-wing organisation with
close links to Fox and US President Trump, will this
week unveil proposals for a UK-US free trade deal based on
cutting back food and environmental regulations. 

Fox’ colleague, Treasury minister Liz Truss, reportedly told one of the think
tanks involved in the proposals
that the UK is being held
back by “a thicket of regulation and control” and should pursue
an “Anglo-American dream.”

The government’s opponents accused Fox and the government of
setting up a “nightmare” scenario for British consumers.

“Theresa May has not even concluded a withdrawal agreement and
already Liam Fox is seizing powers to lower our food and animal
welfare standards and protections,” Barry Gardiner MP, Labour’s
Shadow International Trade Secretary told BI.

“All in order to strike a quick and grubby trade deal with
President Trump.

“When will the Tories understand that lower environmental
standards, chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef is not a
dream but a nightmare? Opening up our markets to big US
agribusiness risks putting many of our farmers and food producers
out of business and fundamentally damage our countryside.”

Labour MP Peter Kyle, a leading supporter of the People’s Vote
campaign, told BI: “In the UK we are rightly proud of the
high-quality, world-class food we produce. Our farmers do not
want to reduce standards or to allow cheaply-produced, lower
quality imports to flood the market just to appease the likes of
Donald Trump.”

“Our food production and environmental standards must not be
carved up at the whims of Liam Fox.”

A senior source in the House of Lords warned that peers would
also block any move by Fox to redesign the country’s food
standards using Henry the 8th powers.”It will go down like a
bucket of sick,” they told BI.

“For Henry the 8th powers to be abused like that would go down
very badly in the House of Lords.”

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