Liam Fox was on feisty form today in Washington DC, using an appearance at the American Enterprise Institute think-tank to warn that Remainers hoping of still stopping Brexit are “dreaming”. He is in town in order to prepare the ground for a trade deal between Britain and America post-Brexit by kicking off the first meeting of the UK-US trade and investment working group.
The Secretary of State for International Trade also said that a free-trade deal with the European Union could be concluded by the time of Brexit in March 2019, conceding “that would be an optimistic view of recent free-trade agreements.” Nile Gardiner shares his optimism, writing in today’s paper: “The US administration believes that Brexit will be a success, and that economic freedom and prosperity can flourish on both sides of the Atlantic in its wake. That is good news for Britain and all who support free trade.” However, a swift trade deal may turn out to rest on whether Britain is prepared to accept American chlorine-washed chicken being sold to consumers. The EU has banned it, although the European Food Safety Authority has deemed America’s chlorinated chicken safe.
The American Farming Association has been clear that any deal must allow for it to be exported. Dr Fox and Boris Johnson are understood to agree, allured by the fact that it is more than one-fifth cheaper than British chicken. Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom – his predecessor as Environment Secretary – fear that allowing cheap American chicken into Britain would see UK farmers lose market share, and forced to lower their standards to compete, with the knock-on effect that they could then lose access to EU markets.
Feathers flew when our plucky reporter Nick Allen asked Dr Fox this afternoon if he would eat a chlorine-washed chicken (Open Britain thinks he should “devour” one “live on camera”). The International Trade Secretary insisted that decisions on whether to allow them to be sold in Britain would be taken at the “very end stage” of US-UK trade talks, mocking the media “obsession” with the subject. Ben Southwood from the Adam Smith Institute suggests that allowing chlorinated chicken should be allowed given the potential trading gain on offer. “Many of our top firms are locked out of the gigantic American services market,” he writes. “Small changes to poultry standards are worth a chance at this huge prize….Chlorine chicken? We need to stop giving a cluck.”
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