Environment Secretary George Eustice refused to rule out chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef being imported from the US in a post-Brexit trade deal today.
He said it was currently illegal to sell such products and said there were “no plans” to change the law.
But three times he refused to rule it out.
“We’re absolutely clear as a Government we will not take risks either without food standards and when it comes to animal welfare we will be projecting our views on the international stage,” he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday.
He said “lactic acid washes” are used more in the States than chlorine, adding: “What I’m saying is we won’t make any moves on our standards.
“We’ve got a clear position in this country that it is illegal to sell chlorine-washed chicken, illegal to sell beef treated with hormones, we have no plans to change those things.”
Lib Dem food spokesman Tim Farron said: “Farming communities up and down the country are rightly concerned about being undercut by low-standard imports from the US.
“With the Tories’ desperation for a trade deal with Donald Trump, it would appear they are rolling back on their promises.
“They are wilfully threatening British consumers and farmers.”
The Cabinet meets tomorrow(TUES) to agree its demands for a Canada-style trade deal with Brussels – which has already been ruled out by the EU’s top negotiator, Michel Barnier.
The plan is expected to be published to Parliament on Thursday.
In a move aimed at piling pressure on the EU, the “mandate” for trade talks with the US will be published next week – meaning the UK can negotiate with the EU and the US at the same time.
Supporters believe the ploy would allow Britain to play one off against the other.
The UK and EU have until December 31 to strike a trade deal before tariffs and quotas could be imposed under World Trade Organisation rules.
French president Emmanuel Macron cast fresh doubt on the timetable over the weekend, saying: “I am not sure that an agreement will be reached between now and the end of the year.
“Anyway, it is going to become more tense because [the British] are very hard.”
The EU’s 27 nations are struggling to agree on what the bloc wants from a pact with the UK.
Talks between Britain and Brussels are due to begin on March 2.
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