For the last three days the debate about Brexit, and the rights and wrongs of leaving the EU and instead relying on trade deals with countries like America to power British growth, has come down to an argument about chlorine-washed chicken. It is commonplace in the US, but banned in Europe. If the Americans insist on Britain letting it into supermarkets as the price for a trade deal, should Britain agree?
On Monday Number 10 was evasive when asked about this. Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, has also criticised the media for obsessing over the issue. But today Michael Gove, the environment secretary (and a leading Brexit campaigner), gave a firm answer. In fact, he answered Nick Robinson’s question on the Today programme so directly that Robinson was almost stumped for words.
Here is the key exchange.
NR: Chlorinated chickens, should they be allowed? You are the man who ultimately, if you are still agriculture secretary when a deal is done, who will have to decide. We don’t need to waste time on this. Yes to chlorinated chickens or no?
NR: Under no circumstances?
MG: I made it perfectly clear, and indeed this is something on which all members of the government are agreed, that we are not going to dilute our high animal welfare standards or our high environmental standards in pursuit of any trade deal.
As Newsnight’s Ian Katz points out, Gove’s claim that “all members of the government are agreed” is contestable, to put it politely.
I will post more from the interview soon.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: The department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) publishes its air quality plan. As Anushka Asthana and Matthew Taylor report, it will propose banning all new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040.
9.30am: Growth figures for the second quarter of 2017 are published.
9.45am: The supreme court delivers its ruling in the case bought by Unison, which is arguing that tribunal fees are illegal.
And the government’s three leading Brexit ministers are all abroad on business. Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, is in Australia. Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, is in Mexico. And David Davis, the Brexit secretary, is in Germany.
As usual, I will be covering breaking political news as it happens, as well as bringing you the best reaction, comment and analysis from the web. I plan to publish a summary at lunchtime and another in the afternoon.
You can read all today’s Guardian politics stories here.
If you want to follow me or contact me on Twitter, I’m on @AndrewSparrow.
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