Trump hails ‘new chapter’ for US-UK trade as Fox bids to allay chickens fears
The International Trade Secretary is in the US for talks on post-Brexit trade links.
Donald Trump has hailed a “new chapter for stronger trade” between Britain and the United States amid controversy over whether chlorine-washed chickens would be sold in the UK under any post-Brexit deal.
The president predicted a strengthening of the “special relationship” after International Trade Secretary Liam Fox played down critics’ fears that any agreement would open up British markets to US agricultural products including the controversial chickens.
It came as a cross-party House of Lords EU committee warned that the Government’s desire to secure free trade agreements after leaving the European Union could result in a “race to the bottom” on animal welfare standards as UK producers are forced to cut costs.
Speaking on Monday during a visit to Washington for talks on post-Brexit links with the US, Dr Fox said any decision on chickens would be a “detail” at the end stage of negotiations.
Following the controversy, Mr Trump hailed the talks between Dr Fox and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Posting on the official presidential Twitter account, rather than his personal page, Mr Trump said: “Our special relationship w/ UK is going to be even better. @USTradeRep & UK’s @LiamFox met today to begin new chapter for stronger trade!”
It came as the Lords’ Energy and Environment sub-committee warned that animal welfare standards could be undermined if post-Brexit trade deals leave UK farmers competing against less-regulated foreign rivals.
The peers also raised concerns about the “overwhelming reliance” on EU citizens in crucial veterinary positions and urged ministers to make sure the industry was able to fill those roles after Brexit.
The report said: “Our evidence strongly suggests that the greatest threat to farm animal welfare standards post-Brexit would come from UK farmers competing against cheap, imported food from countries that produce to lower standards than the UK.
“Unless consumers are willing to pay for higher welfare products, UK farmers could become uncompetitive and welfare standards in the UK could come under pressure.”
They warned that imports from lower-welfare countries could “undermine the sustainability of the industry or incentivise a race to the bottom for welfare standards – contrary to the wishes of the UK industry”.
The peers also noted that much farm animal welfare research is backed by Brussels and “Brexit could lead to a major funding gap”.
The sub-committee’s chairman, Liberal Democrat Lord Teverson, said: “The UK has some of the highest farm animal welfare standards in the world and UK producers are rightly proud of those.
“We see no reason why Brexit should diminish those, as long as the Government is aware of the challenges ahead and acts accordingly.”
He said the committee heard “evidence of undeniable concern that opening up the UK market to free global trade poses a number of issues” and “the Government may find it hard to reconcile its free trade ambitions with its commendable desire for preserving high farm animal welfare standards”.
He added: “We heard overwhelming support for farm animal welfare standards to be maintained or improved. To help achieve that, we urge the Government to secure the inclusion of high farm animal welfare standards in any free trade agreements it negotiates after Brexit.”