Thank you to those of you who have contacted me about chemical-washed chicken and a trade deal with the US.
I appreciate your concerns on this issue. I am not opposed in principle to free trade agreements, including with the US. Trade brings prosperity to the UK and as we leave the EU, we will need to agree new deals that benefit UK workers and businesses of all sizes. However, these agreements must serve our long-term interests and, crucially, protect our existing rights and standards.
Reports that Government Ministers are seeking to allow food produced to lower animal welfare and environmental standards into the UK through a US trade deal are therefore deeply worrying. The public does not want lower animal welfare. They want to maintain our high standards for all food on sale in the UK whether homegrown or imported.
As you know, the Government stated in its manifesto and in its negotiating objectives for a US trade deal that it would not lower food standards. Unfortunately, when it has had the opportunity to put this commitment into law, such as through an amendment, which I supported, to the Agriculture Bill, it has refused to do so. I can therefore assure you that I will continue to press it on this issue and to support efforts to get a commitment in law that would stop the Government undermining our food standards through a trade deal. No trade deal with the US is worth negotiating away our values.
More widely, I appreciate that concerns on this issue are also about the ability of governments to regulate and set standards in the public interest more generally and about the transparency of the negotiating process. I agree that the Government needs to provide proper procedures for scrutiny of future international trade agreements, so we can hold it to account on the promises it has made. I am disappointed that its current Trade Bill does not do this, and I therefore opposed it at Second Reading. The Government needs to bring a proper Trade Bill before Parliament, one which deals with all future trade agreements rather than just so-called “rollover” ones, and that guarantees proper scrutiny and consultation powers for both Parliament and key stakeholders.