Brexit: Liam Fox claims UK could accept chlorinated chicken in US trade deal without lowering food standards

Rob Merrick

The UK could accept chlorinated chicken in a post-Brexit trade deal with the US without cutting food standards, Liam Fox has claimed.

The international trade secretary vowed to protect food quality after withdrawal from the EU – but insisted the controversy about washing poultry in chlorine was purely an “animal welfare” issue.

Dr Fox also suggested it would be impossible, under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, for Britain to ban the practice as part of a trade agreement with Donald Trump.

“There’s been no argument about food safety on chlorine-washed chicken – it’s been an argument about animal welfare,” he told an event.

“So, it’s not been about food standards per se, so that’s a slightly different debate and much more difficult to quantify because the legal definitions about it at the WTO are much less.”

The comments came as Dr Fox said MPs voting down the withdrawal agreement bill would be setting the UK on a path to either “revocation of Article 50 or leaving without a deal”.

He became the first cabinet minister to speak publicly about the decision to plough ahead with the legislation – despite the absence of a deal with Labour meaning near-certain defeat.

“I think MPs will need to look and see whether they want to continue down a path that inexorably, I think, takes us to revocation of Article 50 or leaving without a deal,” he told the Institute for Government think-tank.

MPs should “ask whether that is the best course, democratically or economically, for the UK,” Dr Fox said, adding: “MPs will have to face that decision.”

more follows