PLANS are being drawn up to slash taxes on American food imports.
Trade Secretary Liz Truss is said to be working on a “big concession package” for Washington.
The move would mean lower prices for consumers — but there are fears cheap imports will cripple UK farm businesses and lower standards.
Ms Truss promised she would be “cautious”.
The first round of talks with the US ends on Friday.
Following the reports in the Financial Times Ms Truss promised UK farmers that she will be “extremely cautious to ensure any ‘opening up’ does not cause an unwanted downturn for domestic producers”.
She wrote on the Farmers Weekly website: “As we negotiate the UK’s new trade agreements, including with the US, we will always make sure we are not only standing up for British farming, but actually using these talks to secure new opportunities for farmers.”
But she nor No10 denied the reports that they were planning to slash tariffs on US agricultural imports incentivise the Americans to strike a deal, instead simply insisting that all imports will have to meet strict UK food and animal welfare standards.
It has triggered a tug of war within government, with Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and Environment Secretary George Eustice opposed to the plans.
There are also concerns that allowing cheap US agricultural imports would lower animal welfare standards, with one Environment department insider warning: “You can’t lower tariffs for US agriculture when they’re produced at a much lower cost due to their welfare standards”.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “We have been clear that any future deal with the US must work for the whole of the UK including our farmers, consumers and companies.”
FOOD SAFETY CONCERNS
“Without exception imports into the UK will meet our stringent food safety standards.”
A Department for International Trade official told the FT: “The US-UK negotiations only started last week — it is far too early to talk about any tariff changes.
“We’ve been clear that we will get a deal that works for the whole UK, including our farmers.
“Any trade deals must be reciprocal too.”
An ally of Mr Eustice said “these decisions are still to be made”.
Meanwhile Brussels threatened to haul Britain before euro judges if it doesn’t water down border control controls and restrictions on Europeans’ access to benefits.
The Commission sent a letter to No 10 complaining about “unfair” re-entry bans slapped on people who have been deported after breaching the UK’s immigration laws.
It also wants the PM to reverse rules that limit EU citizens’ access to Jobseeker’s Allowance and ease the conditions under which their families can join them in Britain.
A Commission spokesman gave No 10 four months to explain how it will fix the problem and warned the row could undermine the Brexit deal, which includes a citizens’ rights section.
But as tensions mounted Michael Gove hit back accusing European countries of failing to treat Brits on the continent with the same generosity the UK has shown EU citizens.
He said many expats have complained they are facing complicated processes and tight deadlines when applying for permanent residency, with little help available for the vulnerable and elderly.
The Cabinet Office minister also said that unlike the UK lots of Member States have not launched media campaigns to inform British citizens of their rights under the Brexit deal.
In a letter to the Commission, he warned the shortcomings presented “a serous risk the EU will not fulfil its obligations” and called on Brussels to step in and force capitals to up their game.