Gove: ‘Don't worry about chlorine-washed chicken'

18 July 2018 by
Gove: ‘Don't worry about chlorine-washed chicken'

Environment secretary Michael Gove has reassured MPs that any eventual trade deal with the US post-Brexit won't result in a reduction in the quality of food available in the UK market.

Speaking during a grilling by the Commons European Scrutiny Committee earlier today, Gove said he was aware of concerns that any trade deal with the US could see the arrival of lower-quality foods in the UK market, giving the example of chlorine-washed chicken.

However, he reassured MPs that British consumers wouldn't accept lower animal welfare and environmental standards and that he would not accept a dilution of those standards as part of any eventual deal.

Gove said: "The need for this [chlorine] wash is because the chickens are kept in conditions that we wouldn't tolerate or allow here and therefore the American manufacturer secures a potential competitive advantage over our own higher standards.

"My view is that animal welfare and indeed environmental standards overall matter to UK citizens and it is important we uphold and whatever the relationship was that we had with the EU, I don't think UK citizens would want to see those standards lowered and would want to see our domestic producers put at a competitive disadvantage as a result of that.

"And that is why I have been clear that in any trade agreement that we secure with America or any other country that we shouldn't see a dilution of those standards."

Gove was quizzed extensively about the government's preparation for Brexit on a range of issues, particularly when it came to fisheries and agriculture.

He said he hoped that food could still be traded between the UK and the EU freely after Brexit, pointing out that the UK imports a significant amount of the food it consumes from the EU, making it in the interest of EU countries to reach a deal that doesn't endanger their exports.

"Without suggesting for a moment that the conclusion of these negotiations will be determined entirely by economic interests, nevertheless there are strong economic interests within the EU27 for maintaining tariff-free access either way for food," he said.

Nonetheless, Gove also warned that there had been a "step change" within his department when it came for preparations for a hard Brexit, following days of political turmoil over the UK's exit from the EU.

"Defra is stepping up preparations for the possibility, while no one wants it, that we would leave in March 2019 and then have to trade on WTO terms," he said.

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