A group of nine think-tanks from Britain and America have teamed up to call for a US-UK trade deal which could have huge implications for British farmers.
The transatlantic alliance includes organisations such as the Centre for Policy Studies, the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute for Economic Affairs, which has close links to Defra Secretary Michael Gove.
Daniel Hannan, a Conservative MEP who has previously said people should ‘stop moaning’ about chlorinated chicken entering the country after Brexit, is spearheading a campaign to persuade policy makers to take the report’s recommendations seriously.
Those recommendations include removing all tariffs and Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs) on agricultural goods, forcing British farmers to compete with their American counterparts who can take advantage of economies of scale.
The report also called for food manufacturers to be able use products from outside the UK more easily and for public procurement contracts to be opened up to US businesses.
It said: “The ideal Free Trade Agreement provides for the elimination of tariffs as quickly as possible on as many goods as possible and to the lowest levels possible.
“It should open all Government procurement markets to goods and services providers from the other party.”
At the moment, EU policy prevents public bodies from favouring British food in procurement contracts because all suppliers in the single market must be treated equally, but Ministers have suggested Brexit will allow them to change the rules.
On sanitary and phytosantiary regulations, which allow the EU to ban hormone-treated beef and chlorinated chicken, the report said: “It is critical that measures to protect animal, human, or plant health are based on sound science and the parties do not adopt measures which are disguised barriers to trade and competition.”
This position seems to echo that of the US Government, which has repeatedly referred to the EU bans as ‘protectionist’.
Other measures singled out as protectionist by the report include Geographical Indications, which prevent locally-produced foods such as Melton Mowbray pork pies and Scotch whisky being ripped off by counterfeiters.
The authors said such provisions ‘simply do not belong in free trade agreements’.
“Their inclusion is based on successful lobbying from particular interest groups, whether businesses or non-governmental organisations,” they added.