Remarks made by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox on opening UK poultry market to low-cost US competition raise concerns
Tory desperation to secure a post-Brexit trade deal with US cannot be allowed to threaten Northern Ireland’s Agri-food industry
July 26th: Moy Park employs twelve thousand workers across the UK, with almost half based at its operations in Northern Ireland making it the most regionally significant employer here. Unite the union represents the majority of its workforce as well as being the dominant union in the broader food processing sector.
Unite Regional Officer with responsibility for Agri-food, Sean McKeever blasted comments made by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox in the United States where he suggested that a post-Brexit trade deal might open United Kingdom poultry markets to low-cost US competitors:
“The Agri-Food sector in Northern Ireland is disproportionately exposed to the impacts of Brexit, with real concerns that cross-border trade will be subject to delays, red-tape and even tariffs if we lose free trade access to the EU.
“In this context it is vital that our Agri-Food businesses make the most of import-substitution opportunities where there is the potential for Northern Ireland food producers to supply a much higher proportion of the UK-wide food market.
“The comments made by Dr Fox, the International Trade Secretary, in the United States cast a dark shadow over such opportunities. He has gone as far as suggesting that a post-Brexit trade deal might allow for the import of chlorinated chicken from the US; a move which would mark a sharp liberalisation of trade from the situation where, as part of the EU, such imports are banned due to concerns for human health.
“There are broader concerns that any Tory-negotiated trade deal with the US could open the door to foodstuffs produced with hormones and insecticides casually used by US-based agri-food multinationals but which are restricted at present in the UK.
“Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector is characterised by its quality-assurance. Opening the door to cut-cost competition from the United States has the potential to threaten thousands of jobs both in processing, distribution and the supply sectors, across the rural economy.
“Northern Ireland is already hugely exposed to the risks from Brexit – it is vital that our Agri-Food sector is protected in any future trade deals. We will not be the collateral damage for Tory party attempts to distract away from their abject failure and cluelessness in the ongoing Brexit negotiations”, Mr McKeever concluded.