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Boris Johnson is keen to sign a major agreement with Washington to help Britain bounce back from the COVID-19 slump. However some Tory MPs fear this could see British farmers undercut with products including chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef.
The US is keen to increase its access to the UK’s lucrative food market as part of any trade deal.
Last week International Trade Secretary Liz Truss announced the creation of a new “trade and agriculture” commission to examine the subject.
However a group of Conservative backbenchers reportedly don’t think this goes far enough.
According to the Mail on Sunday they are calling for the commission to be given statutory status meaning the Government would be compelled to respond to its recommendations.
The commission is designed to ensure British farmers “do not face unfair competition and that their high animal welfare and production standards are not undermined”.
In 2018 agriculture made up an estimated 0.6 percent of the UK economy.
Speaking to the Mail on Sunday about the commission one Tory MP commented: “It can’t just be a panel that issues advice and then gets ignored.
“The PM was quite receptive to what we were saying.”
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George Freeman, formerly a minister at the Department for Transport, argued the commission must not become simply a “talking shop”.
He has reportedly been urging the Government to “stand by our UK food and farming sector” during negotiations with the US.
In a move that gave hope to British farmers Ben Carson, the United States Secretary of State for Housing and Urban Development, indicated some foods may be exempt from any US-UK trade deal.
He commented: “I suspect there would be further negotiations and some give and take to make sure that things work out.”
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The Government is also coming under pressure from farming and environmental groups to prevent a loosening of regulations.
RSPB chief executive Beccy Speight demanded “clear legal guarantees that imports will meet our environmental standards”.
She added: “Anything less than this and we would be selling our farmers and our wildlife short at a time when many of our iconic farmland birds like lapwings and skylarks are starting to disappear from our countryside.
“Exposing British farming to competition from American-style mega farms and harmful pesticides would have a devastating impact on any hope of nature’s recovery.”
National Farmers Union president Minette Batters also urged the Government to ensure the new commission has real power.
Back in January Woody Johnson, the US ambassador to the UK, suggested chlorine washed chicken should be included in any trade deal.
He commented: “These products should absolutely be included in a US-UK free trade agreement that will create new markets for farmers from both countries and offer more choices to British and American consumers.
“In fact, your own Food Standards Agency has already approved antimicrobial washes to stop food poisoning in pre-washed salads sold across the UK.
“Perhaps it should recommend including chicken in this treatment.
Millions of Britons visit America every year and I would wager most eat chicken while there. Ask them and I am sure they will tell you that American agricultural products are safe, nutritious and delicious.”
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