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International trade secretary Liz Truss announced this morning that the UK is aiming to secure a US trade deal by mid-2021. She added she will only agree to a deal that will give the UK “more of what it wants”. Ms Truss said: “The point is we won’t do a deal just to hit a deadline, but of course a deadline can be good for focusing minds.
“Of course, if the other parties are unreasonable we’re not going to say ‘fine we’ll sign up to your terms’.
“We’re only going to do a deal with the US if it improves on [the current UK-US] trading relationship and gives more of what the UK wants.”
Her reassurances came after the House of Lords supported amendments to the Government’s proposed Agricultural Bill last week.
These were put forward by rebels including Tory MP Neil Parish, who chairs the Commons environment, food and rural affairs committee.
The first amendment sought a “requirement for agricultural and food imports to meet domestic standards”, while the second will give MPs more scrutiny of its recommendations towards future trade deals.
But the Department of Trade has insisted the UK will never follow in the footsteps of the US to inject beef with hormones or rinse chicken with chlorine.
A Government spokeswoman told Express.co.uk: “We will never sign a trade deal that compromises on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.
“A UK-US trade deal will provide farmers across the country with a range of new opportunities and markets for their high-quality produce, including for iconic British goods like beef and cheese.”
She added the UK will have more freedom to secure trade deals on its own terms now and demand more quality now that the country is no longer part of the EU.
The spokeswoman said: “We are committed to transparency in our trade policy, having run one of the biggest consultations ever on trade deals with countries, including the US.
“Having left the EU, we will get to decide how we set and maintain our own laws, standards and regulations.
“We could not be clearer on this point.
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“Our manifesto states that we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.
“It is illegal to import chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef into the UK and any changes would require new legislation to be brought before this Parliament.
“The Food Standards Agency will continue to provide independent advice to make sure all food imports comply with our high standards.
“Decisions on these standards are separate from any trade agreements.”
The Agriculture Bill will return to the House of Commons next month.
MPs will then get the chance to pass the recent amendment into law.
A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “We will look closely at amendments passed at Report stage and consider how to respond when the Agriculture Bill returns to the House of Commons.”
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