Environment secretary Michael Gove has said the UK will ‘not compromise on high standards’ after a leading US trade official suggested Brexit should be treated as an opportunity to reset food regulations.
Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference last week Ted McKinney, US undersecretary of agriculture and trade said that Brexit provided an opportunity for the UK to formulate its own regulatory standards in order to help facilitate a trade deal with the US.
He told delegates: ‘We find the EU a very difficult place to do business and so we hope that as part of Brexit the reset button can at least be considered.
‘I think to the degree that some of the sanitary and phytosanitary burdens are removed, or changed, there is much greater opportunity for trade between the UK and US.’
Mr McKinney went on to defend the USA’s food safety and environmental standards warning that he was tired of the repeated references to chlorinated chicken.
He said: ‘We hold our food safety and environment and animal welfare standards up against the UK any day of the week and twice on Sunday.’
Responding to Mr McKinney’s remarks Mr Gove said that the UK took existing EU standards that currently ban the importation of chlorine-washed chicken along with controls on the importation of hormone-produced beef ‘very seriously’.
When Mr Gove was asked whether he thought a tariff-free agreement between Ireland and the UK could result in the widespread importation of hormone-treated beef from the USA he said:
‘Neither of our respective jurisdictions will want compromise on high standards, both of us will be vigilant on making sure that as we hope to secure a future trade deal, that we provide our own respective publics with the guarantees that they expect.’
At the same conference, Mr Gove delivered a speech on the future of UK farming where he called for a reform of the farm subsidy system which he claimed in its current form risked reducing the amount of arable land, increasing pollution levels and degrading human health.
He also called for an end to the number of inspections any individual farm has to endure. He told delegates that on any one day a farmer could be visited by up to six different agencies including someone from the local authority.
He also proposed a new food labelling system as a post Brexit benefit reflecting how food producers and farmers were measuring up on issues like soil health, pollution, water quality and animal welfare.Stuart Spear