Trade secretary Liam Fox has said the government will not lower food standards after leaving the European Union, a day after a senior US secretary said better trade relations would demand it.
Fox, who has previously been open-minded on matters such as chlorinated chicken, told Radio 4's Today programme, the UK would not see "reductions in our standards as we move forward, partly because British consumers wouldn’t stand for it".
‘We are entering an era where I think people will take a much bigger interest in trade agreements than they might have done in the past, on environmental standards, quality and safety, they will clearly have very strong views," he added, noting the government did not want a repeat performance of TTIP "where a huge amount of work is done only to find the public won’t accept it".
"We need to understand those parameters early on,” he said.
Fox was speaking just a day after Donald Trump's most senior trade adviser, commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, said the UK could become the US' "number one trading partner, worldwide" – but only if the country ditched "protectionist" measures, including safety standards and other regulatory measures.
"It is important that an eventual Brexit agreement takes into account our commercial interests and does not hinder development of a closer post-Brexit US-UK relationship by continuing divergence standards and regulations and other protectionist measures," Ross told the annual CBI conference, in London yesterday.
"Remember the EU talks free trade but actually is highly protectionist."
Fox was also asked about the growing scandal caused by foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who may have inadvertently doubled the jail time of British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, by telling a select committee last week she was "simply teaching people journalism” when she was arrested last April.
Covertly teaching journalism is considered a crime in Iran. The charge has been strongly denied by her employer, Thomson Reuters Foundation, and her husband.
Fox told the BBC: "We all make slips of the tongue."
He added it was a "very, very aggressive, unacceptable way to treat a UK citizen", adding that the government deemed her detention to be illegal and would be seeking her release as soon as possible.