Report warns of post-Brexit toxic imports
A House of Lords committee report follows UK International Trade Secretary Liam Fox’s controversial plans to allow imports of chlorine-washed chicken from the US.
Fox was visiting Washington to negotiate a potential US-UK trade deal where he accused the animal-loving nation’s media of being “obsessed with chlorine-washed chickens”.
The Lords EU Environment Committee has also warned that the UK was “overwhelmingly reliant” on EU workers to uphold animal welfare standards.
It said 90 per cent of veterinary surgeons and 75 per cent of abattoir workers were EU nationals and retaining them after leaving the EU was vital.
Peers said there was no reason welfare standards should fall after Brexit.
They expressed concerns about a potential shortage of experienced vets, with demand for their skills only likely to increase after Brexit.
Some environmental and welfare standards deriving from EU membership could be watered down as a precondition of trade deals with the US and other major food exporters.
The sub-committee report said post-Brexit imports from countries enforcing lower farm animal welfare standards could put British farmers at a competitive disadvantage.
“The UK has some of the highest farm animal welfare standards in the world and UK producers are rightly proud of those,” said Liberal Democrat peer Lord Teverson, sub-committee chairman.
“We see no reason why Brexit should diminish those, as long as the government is aware of the challenges ahead and acts accordingly.
“We heard evidence of undeniable concern that opening up the UK market to free global trade poses a number of issues.
“The government may find it hard to reconcile its free-trade ambitions with its commendable desire for preserving high farm animal welfare standards.
“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.
“Whilst Brexit provides the UK with the unique opportunity to review and potentially improve farm animal welfare standards, the government will need to consider the effect of increasing standards on the competitiveness of UK producers as well the future trading relationship with the EU.”
Fox has come under fire for plotting a trade deal with the US, which would include agriculture with its slack regulation.
Chlorine-washed chicken is currently banned by the EU and is noticeably cheaper than European poultry.
Fox was angered by the questions he faced on the subject in Washington.
“The British media are obsessed with chlorine-washed chickens, a detail of the very end stage of one sector of a potential free-trade agreement,” the pro-Brexit campaigner said.
EU chickens are more expensive than their less-appetising US counterparts. Picture credit: Flickr