Leaked documents from the US-UK trade deal talks reveal that US negotiators offered PR advice to their UK counterparts on how to sell the controversial practice of chlorine-washing chickens to UK consumers and the British media.

The document show that in November 2017 the US team agreed to share their "public lines" on chlorine-washed chicken to help "inform the media narrative".

The leaked documents also show that US negotiators had ‘the most angst’ about EU limits to the use of chemicals in food production, trying to persuade the UK to change seek a clean break from EU rules that protect UK consumers by maintaining high standards in farms and the food industry across the UK.  

Liberal Democrat Shadow Trade Secretary Chuka Umunna said:

“The fact the US are offering PR tips on how to force chlorinated chicken down our throats tells you everything you need to know.

“The Tories’ desperation for a trade deal with Donald Trump risks leading to lower standards for the food on our tables.  

“We must stop Boris Johnson ramming through a damaging Trump trade deal that threatens British consumers and farmers.

“The Liberal Democrats will stop Boris, stop Brexit and uphold our world-leading food standards.”


See relevant extracts from the leaked US-UK trade documents below
24-25 July 2017

  • The US (Callahan) explained that agricultural chemicals give the US the most “angst”.
  • The US (Callahan) asked the UK what timeline it would be ready to discuss SPS specifics with the US on.

13-14 November 2017
The US repeatedly emphasised their view that the UK should seek regulatory autonomy following EU Exit to allow us to evaluate methods/products independently. The US suggested this would be beneficial for the UK not only in terms of trade, but in relation to productivity, competitiveness and driving innovation from our agricultural and bio-tech markets
The US saw their difference in approach from the EU as a `philosophical difference` between a riskbased approach (US) and an increasingly hazard-based approach (EU). They expressed concern about the process by which decisions were reached on SPS matters, critiquing the comitology process for perceived politicisation when member states are consulted.   The EU aims to reduce chemicals on food; the US aims to reduce pathogens, and these two systems are not easily compatible. The illustrative example cited was the struggle to reapprove glyphosate in the EU.  
There was recognition from the US of the sensitivity of SPS issues in the UK in terms of attention from the media and consumer groups.
US (Callahan) highlighted the EU’s increasing move to a hazard-based approach (from risk-based) as a cause for concern. An application that triggers a hazard automatically fails, whilst risk-based allows flexibility to address concerns. 
Callahan explained that the US is aware of the pressure that the UK will be under to harmonise with the EU during EU Exit. She recommended that the UK maintains regulatory autonomy. The US maintains their own autonomy, and believe that they have been able to make great strides in productivity and competiveness (particularly in bio-tech). 
The UK (Surrey) asked how differing pathogen reduction treatment approach had been managed with the EU. US (Callahan) responded that some positive applications had been agreed, such as the use of lactic acid on beef. The US cited an obligation in US law to follow up strong hygiene standards with a chemical wash to remove any final pathogens. The US understood that the UK used PRTs until 2003, and wondered if there would be an interest in bringing them back post-EU Exit. 
US to share their public lines on chlorine-washed chicken to help inform the media narrative around the issue.
10-11 July 2018

The US see SPS as the biggest ‘sticking point’ on risk (what they see as the ‘global norm’) vs the EU’s hazard-based approach on mainly pesticides, veterinary drugs and pathogen reduction treatments.

The US asked whether Northern Ireland had a flexible SPS policy compared to the rest of the UK.

This was a challenging and difficult meeting, because the status of Chequers makes movement on SPS unlikely. The US were clear that this was deflating, and full EU alignment on SPS was the worstcase scenario. We anticipate this being fed into the POTUS visit briefing

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