Business Insider Edition

Chlorinated chicken: Surge in campaign donations from US poultry lobby as Trump pushes for Brexit trade deal with UK

Adam Payne , Business Insider US
 Oct 11, 2019, 03:05 PM
Donald Trump lookalike in London's Trafalgar Square during his state visit to the UK.
  • There has been a surge in political campaign contributions from the US poultry industry since the UK voted for Brexit.
  • The industry has poured more than $30 million (R447 million) into political campaigns since 2016, more than three times the amount in the previous presidential election cycle.
  • Opponents of Boris Johnson's government fear that a Brexit trade deal with Trump would lead to chlorinated chicken, and other EU banned products such as hormone-injected beef, flooding into UK markets.
  • The US government is keen for Britain to relax its trade rules in order to secure a post-Brexit trade deal.
  • US food industry lobbyists tell Business Insider that "protectionism" in the UK must come to an end.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider SA.

LONDON - Political campaign donations from the US poultry industry have rocketed since the UK voted for Brexit, as lobbyists push for Trump to make Britain relax its strict food regulations in order to secure a post-Brexit trade deal.

New data, compiled by the US-based research organisation Open Secrets, shows that in the year of the 2016 Brexit referendum, the US poultry industry spent a total of $19,296,326 (R288 million) on political contributions with more than $30 million (R447 million) spent in the run up to the 2020 presidential election.

This is more than three times larger than the amount donated by the industry in previous presidential election cycles.

The US government is keen to open the British market up to US agricultural companies, which cannot currently export foods like chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef to the UK due to EU rules.

The US Trade Representative's negotiating objectives published this year state that any free trade deal with the UK after Brexit must eliminate such "unwarranted" non-tariff barriers to US agricultural goods.

Opponents of Boris Johnson's government in the UK told Business Insider that they fear that food standards, imposed as part of Britain's membership of the EU, would be dropped leading to fears of declining food hygiene in the country after Brexit.

"It's disgusting! US lobbyists are trying to foist the meat from diseased chickens on our children," Barry Gardiner, the opposition Labour party's Shadow International Trade Secretary, told Business Insider.

He added: "A Johnson-Trump post-Brexit trade deal would put the interests of American farmers before the British public. It would lead to an influx of cheap US food produced to lower standards."

Lobbyists for the US poultry industry told Business Insider that "protectionism" in the UK must come to an end.

A spokesperson for the National Chicken Council, based in Washington, told Business Insider the US poultry industry "would welcome the opportunity to compete in the UK market," adding that "unfortunately, this issue isn't about poultry - its always been about politics and protectionism."

The American Farm Bureau Federation said in a statement: "The issue of 'chlorine-chicken' from the US is often brought up in Britain as a reason against having a US-UK agreement, but there's no reason this has to be a show stopper.

It added: "In the end, we want science-based measures that do not block trade. Food-safety standards and biotechnology measures should improve agricultural and food trade rather than function as a form of protectionism."

UK food industry fears influx of cheaper US products

Boris Johnson
Adrian Dennis/PA Images via Getty Images
Richard Griffiths, Chief Executive of the British Poultry Council, told Business Insider that any UK government move to compromise food standards would be "unacceptable" and threaten "high standards of production from farm to fork."

He told Business Insider: "If food produced to lower standards is allowed to enter the British market, it will create a 2-tier food system, in which only the affluent can afford to eat British food grown to British standards.

"We're determined to carry on putting food on every table and ensuring British food remain accessible and affordable for all. That is why we're calling for a Government-wide commitment that production standards of imported food will have to meet British standards as a condition of entry."

Johnson abandons UK promise to stick with EU food standards

Boris Johnson and Donald Trump

Last week Johnson reportedly ditched a previous UK commitment to maintain a "level playing field" with the EU after Brexit, paving the way for his government to ditch EU standards for the environment and workers' rights.

His predecessor Theresa May had agreed to stick with these EU rules in exchange for access to the single market.

However, UK negotiators are keen to move away from these rules, particularly those relating to food, as Britain prepares to leave the EU's customs union and have an independent trading policy, the Independent reported.

Moreover, a government document obtained by The Financial Times warned that striking a free trade deal with the US would "severely limit" the UK's ability to negotiate a comprehensive post-Brexit trade deal with the EU.

Bill Esterson, the Labour Party's Shadow Minister for Business and International Trade, has been tracking the behaviour of US industry lobbyists ahead of a potential trade agreement between the US and the UK.

He told Business Insider: "A trade deal that sells British producers and consumers down the river will only make us poorer. We want policies that lead to better results for our producers and better food on our plates and in our kitchens.

"Policy that is made in the interest of the US poultry industry will only be to their benefit at the expense of our industry and our consumers."

Chuka Umunna, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesperson, said: "We have already heard this week how Tory ministers are willing to get rid of our food safety standards as they desperately try to replace the trade we have with the world's largest trading bloc - the EU - for a deal with Donald Trump.

"This serves to show that the risk the US will to try and take advantage of our weakened position if we leave the EU is high.

"We haven't even left yet and countries are already queuing up to benefit from the economic disaster Boris Johnson wants to plunge us into."

Asked this week about the prospect of a trade deal with the US, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Johnson said: "The government has been clear that we have no plans to reduce any of our standards."

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