Boris Johnson and the UK government are on a collision course with devolved governments over post-Brexit food standards.
The prime minister is believed to want to push through laws on food, environmental and animal welfare standards that would give his government unilateral control over the UK’s internal market.
In so doing, it would force devolved governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to accept whatever standards on food, environment and welfare are agreed under future trade deals with other countries.
Scottish and Welsh ministers are concerned that the introduction of these statutory powers in a UK internal market bill would force them to accept products produced to lower standards than in this country, such as US chlorinated chicken.
Michael Russell, the Scottish government’s cabinet secretary for constitutional affairs, told the Financial Times that the SNP-led administration was prepared to fight any such proposal in a UK internal market bill in the courts.
“We do not accept that this is a legitimate way of operating within devolution,” said Mr Russell.
“[If] they pass the legislation… then we will have no intention of implementing that and they would have to essentially go to court to force its implementation.”
This week, Aldi joined Waitrose by declaring it would never sell chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef, regardless of any future trade deals with the US.
Aldi UK chief executive Giles Hurley vowed to only sell fresh chicken and beef from British farmers.
The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) said farmers and consumers were “hugely angered” after the Conservative MPs voted an amendment to the Agriculture Bill that would have required any agricultural or food product imported into the UK to at least match UK standards under future trade deals.
A UK government spokesperson said: “This government has been clear it will not sign a trade deal that will compromise our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards. We are a world leader in these areas and that will not change.
“Chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef are not permitted for import into the UK. This will be retained through the EU Withdrawal Act and enshrined in UK law at the end of the transition agreement.”