Defra Secretary Michael Gove has refused to guarantee the UK’s high food production standards will be protected in law after Brexit.
Mr Gove and other members of the Cabinet, including Trade Secretary Liam Fox, have repeatedly said they have no intention of dropping standards in pursuit of new trade deals with countries such as the US.
But the Government has so far failed to commit to the protection of standards in law, which has concerned farming and animal welfare groups.
At a Countryside Alliance event at Conservative Party conference in Birmingham this week, Mr Gove was asked what the best legal mechanism to safeguard standards would be.
He said: “I think it goes beyond simply what we can put in law. It will be the case with any new trade deal that parliament would have to approve it.
“The single most important thing is making sure people across the board would put democratic pressure on any future House of Commons not to dilute our high standards.
“I cannot guarantee, even if it were to be put in statute, that a future Government would not challenge or overturn anything we put in black and white.”
At last week’s Labour Party conference, the Shadow Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner said it was ‘deeply worrying’ that the Government would not commit to protecting standards in legislation.
But Farming Minister George Eustice told a separate Conservative Rural Forum event at Tory conference the UK had to stop getting ‘spooked’ by demands from other countries.
“Just because the Americans ask for something, does not mean we should feel pressure to grant it,” he said.
“For me, the fundamental principle is if you want to sell your products in a foreign market, you should abide by the customs and standards of that market and respect those and not expect them to be changed.
“That should be the starting point. This idea we have to change everything because the US says so or Australia says so is absolutely false.”