The Liberal Democrats have called on Boris Johnson to use President Trump’s visit to the UK this week as an opportunity to commit to protect farmers in any future trade deal.
Leader Jo Swinson issued the challenge after leaked documents showed US officials pushing for the UK to drop standards after Brexit, by allowing imports of chlorinated chicken, making nutritional labelling less clear and offering reduced protection for regional foods such as stilton cheese, Welsh lamb or Scotch beef.
The papers also revealed the US agreed to help ‘sell’ chlorinated chicken to a sceptical British public and described parliamentary scrutiny of food standards as ‘unhelpful’.
Theresa May’s Chequers plans were labelled a ‘worst case scenario’ by the American administration, because they did not allow sufficient change to British food standards, but Boris Johnson’s deal gives the UK more flexibility to move away from EU rules in this area.
Ms Swinson said: “Johnson’s desperation for a post-Brexit trade deal with Donald Trump means UK farmers risk being undercut by low-standard imports from the US.
“Boris Johnson must give a guarantee that our farmers and world-leading food standards will not be sacrificed on the altar of a Trump trade deal.”
Food and farming alliance Sustain also slammed the UK’s failure to raise the issues of animal welfare and overuse of antibiotics in US farm animals during the trade talks.
Kath Dalmeny, the group’s chief executive, said: “It is disgraceful that UK trade negotiators are actively discussing trading away our precious food and environmental standards, without checking with experts or the British public.
“The next Government must urgently publish the UK’s negotiating objectives before any future talks with any country or trading bloc begin, and ensure our representatives in Parliament can vote on trade deals.”
The Conservative manifesto promised to ‘raise’ animal welfare, agriculture and environmental standards, while negotiating trade deals with the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Japan in the next three years.