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UK will not import chlorinated chicken or hormone-treated beef, vows minister

Nick Ansell/PA Wire

By Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent

Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers has insisted the UK will not import chlorinated chicken or hormone-treated beef under a trade deal with the US.

Concerns have been raised that food produced to lower environmental and welfare standards than are permitted in the UK will be allowed into the country in future trade deals - undercutting the domestic agricultural sector.

Ms Villiers had sought to reassure farmers at the Oxford Farming Conference on Wednesday that the Government would not dilute the UK's high environmental and animal welfare standards in post-Brexit trade deals.

She said EU laws banning chlorinated chicken or hormone-treated beef were part of legislation transferred into British law as part of Brexit, and also suggested tariffs could be used to stop imports of lower standard foods.

But her assurances were met with scepticism from farmers at the conference, with no hands raised when the audience was asked if they believed the Government would protect their interests in trade talks.

National Farmers' Union president Minette Batters told the PA news agency the legislation to protect high food standards "must be in the Agriculture Bill, it must be set down on the UK statute book in the long term".

Meanwhile, in an interview with BBC Countryfile to be broadcast on Sunday January 26, Ms Villiers said: "We will not be importing chlorinated chicken. We will not be importing hormone-treated beef.

"Both of those are illegal under EU law, which we are importing into our domestic system.

"There are legal barriers to their import and those are going to stay in place."

In the interview, she repeated her pledge made at the conference that the Government would defend the UK's national interests in any trade talks.

Responding to the government, Luke Pollard, Labour's Shadow Environment Secretary, said: "We can't trust any trade deal promises from the Tories when the government has held secret talks in which the US offered to help convince the British public about chlorinated chicken.

"The Conservatives have so far shamefully refused to guarantee high animal welfare and environmental standards in law.

"Chlorinated chicken horrifies the British public and will be part of a trade deal with Trump.

"The British public won't accept lower standards and Labour will seek to amend the environment and agriculture bills to ensure that our farmers are not undercut by lower prices and lower standards on US super farms."