The Price of a US Trade Deal

Government officials fear they will come under strong pressure from Trade Secretary Liz Truss to weaken the UK’s food and environmental standards so she can get a trade deal with the United States. 

A leaked briefing prepared for Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers warns that her ministry will come under “significant pressure” from the Department for International Trade (DIT) The internal document states that DIT will push the to “accommodate” American requests to lower the UK’s sanitary and phytosanitary standards (SPS) post-Brexit.

The leaked paper has been published by the campaign organisation Unearther.Greenpeace

It says: “Weakening our SPS regime to accommodate one trade partner could irreparably damage our ability to maintain UK animal, plant and public health, and reduce trust in our exports,” it reads. It says giving the American what they want post Brexit would severely hamper Britain’s ability to negotiate an agreement with the EU and could lead to the EU imposing a hard border in Ireland to protect the single market.

Labour’s shadow Brexit Secretary Barry Gardiner told Unearthed: “That trade agreements with the USA and Australia risk opening the floodgates to food imports produced to much lower standards.

“Their rules specify ‘acceptable levels’ of maggots in orange juice, rat droppings in ginger and hormone levels in beef. The right level should be zero.

“Undercutting our farmers and food manufacturers like this would drive many of our producers out of business and put jobs at risk.”

 At a Tory conference fringe event hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs Truss

 Speaking at the conference earlier this week, however, Truss said she and her Defra colleague were united in their enthusiasm for a US deal. “Theresa Villiers, for example, the Defra Secretary, is a strong free trade supporter.”

Asked whether deals could lead to a race to the bottom on environmental standards, Truss said she wanted to take “a free-market approach”.