The US dairy industry is pushing for a US-UK deal on dairy exports to the UK, in light of Brexit, UK newspapers are reporting.
The i reports that the dairy lobby in the US has opened talks with the Trump administration about a deal between the two countries and that it wants to see the UK relax its milk quality standards for a deal to go ahead.
Last year the UK Environment Minister Michael Gove said that the UK would not loosen its food standards for any trade deal, despite the UK’s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, who previously said he would support a trade deal between the US and UK that allowed chlorinated chicken into the UK.
However, the UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove told the Andrew Marr Show on BBC that Britain has a reputation for producing top quality food and the UK can be a world leader in environmental measures.
When asked about the UK accepting hormone beef or chlorine washed chicken, he said that a trade deal with the US would not mean any loosening of food and environmental standards.
“With no tariff barriers, British food, which has a world reputation for quality, will be able to be bought by more people. That means that as we grow and produce more, that we can ensure that our countryside and rural economy is more productive.”
Gove also told the Oxford Farming Conference that the UK Government intends to create a new “gold-standard” for food labelling to signify British quality after Brexit.
However the i newspaper reports that the US dairy lobby has opened talks with the Trump administration about a future UK-US trade deal and it has indicated it wants to see Britain relax its standards on a key measure of milk quality – namely somatic cell counts, with the US currently allowing far higher levels of SCCs than the EU.
This it says would be part of the price for a transatlantic accord.
The US has previously said that it considers EU milk standards as a trade barrier and commentators now say that food standards could become a battle ground as the UK looks to eke out trade deals with countries outside the EU.
The UK is not self sufficient in its food supply, importing around 40pc of its food, and farmers in the UK have previously said that a clamp down on immigration could leave crops rotting in fields as they struggle to find British workers.
Dr Peter Plate, a dairy specialist at the Royal Veterinary College, told the i newspaper that in general, animal welfare standards in the UK are higher than in almost any other country, including the US.
“So a free trade deal has the potential danger to either dilute welfare standards her or put UK farmers into an uncompetitive position – we must avoid a race to the bottom.”
By: Margaret Donnelly