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Friday, June 05, 2020

Government breaks promise on chlorinated chicken

There is no satisfaction is being proved right, especially when it is on a matter of public health, but nevertheless Boris Johnson's abandonment of his promise not to lower food standards in negotiations with the United States was inevitable. How else was he going to get his trade deal?

The fact that this breach of faith has taken place during a national crisis will not go unnoticed by keen watchers of media management. Effectively, the government has chosen to hide their U-turn in a bad news year. It is the strongest argument yet for delaying Brexit - surely the government can only handle one crisis at a time, though on present form, not even that.

The Independent reports that Johnson is now facing a backlash for ditching a pledge to keep US chlorinated chicken out of British supermarkets under pressure from American negotiators in post-Brexit trade talks:

Tory backbenchers warned the government was in for a rebellion on the issue while animal welfare groups and opposition parties accused Boris Johnson of refusing to “stand up to Donald Trump” and “sacrificing food standards” in the name of a trade deal.

Downing Street signalled on Thursday that imports of lower-standard American food were now on the table in the negotiations, a reversal of a longstanding promise.

As recently as January, Theresa Villiers, then environment secretary, reiterated that “we will not be importing chlorinated chicken” – but since then US trade chiefs have put pressure on the UK to change its position, leading the government to change tack.

While the government’s own best-case scenarios says an agreement with the US would lead to a tiny boost to the economy of just 0.16 per cent of GDP, failing to sign such a deal would be highly politically embarrassing for Boris Johnson, who has presented such an arrangement as part of the alternative to EU membership.

Simon Hoare, a Tory MP who was one of 22 Conservatives who voted against the government to defend UK food standards in future trade deals last month, told The Independent: “If this appalling news is true it’s depressing as it rides a coach and horses through assurances given by ministers to the Commons and what the Tory party manifesto said in December.

“A lot of colleagues did not vote for the amendment because of those government assurances. Ministers are in for a scrap on this one. Public opinion is clear on this issue: they see animal welfare as important.”

The paper says that Ministers are said to be open to giving access to controversial US food products, that also include hormone-fed beef and crops treated with 82 different pesticides banned in the EU, but applying tariffs on them to protect UK-based farmers from competition.

They add that under the so-called “dual tariff” system being looked at, American agribusiness would be allowed to sell goods in the UK even if they were not complying with the same production standards as British farmers – as long as they paid the tariff. However, some ministers, such as free-marketer Liz Truss, want to go further and gradually reduce these tariffs to zero over 10 years, giving farmers time to adjust to the new normal.

The US government also officially considers country-of-origin labelling a barrier to trade, suggesting it is likely to push for such practices to be outlawed in a free trade agreement. This would make it impossible for consumers to tell whether their product had been sourced from the US.

Yet again, we have evidence that Boris Johnson will not stand up to Trump. Those who advocated leaving the EU to 'take back control' have effectively condemned us to become a satellite state of the USA.
What with the Virus and the McCann child all over the media the trade deals and all they entail are sidelined. As a result this 'betrayal' (yet another from this Brexit govnt) of food standards can slide by and not be noticed. THE DEALS THAT COULD BE FORCED THRU UNDER THE RADAR SHOULD BE MORE WIDELY PUBLISHED IN ALL MEDIA OUTLETS BE IT PAPERS OR INTERNET.
Perhaps I am being cynical, but I suspect an inspired leak. It will be rebutted by Johnson when the draft deal is announced amidst great rejoicing which will cover up other concessions such as hormone- and antibiotic-treated meat, together with the secret business courts which scuppered TTIP, the proposed deal between the EU and US. These courts could prove a greater threat to the NHS and our living standards generally than anything overtly in the final agreement - see https://www.globaljustice.org.uk/blog/2019/dec/3/trump-trade-deal-could-multiply-threat-corporate-courts.

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