'Post-Brexit deals could undermine UK animal welfare standards'
Animal welfare standards could be undermined if post-Brexit trade deals leave British farmers competing against less-regulated foreign rivals, peers have warned.
The Government's desire to secure trade deals after leaving the European Union could result in a "race to the bottom" on welfare as British producers are forced to cut costs, members of the the cross-party House of Lords EU committee said.
The intervention came as International Trade Secretary Liam Fox became involved in a controversy over whether chlorine-washed chickens would be allowed into the British market under any post-Brexit UK-US trade deal as he held economic talks in Washington.
As critics expressed fears that British food standards could suffer after Brexit, Dr Fox said any decision on such chickens would be "a detail" at the very end stage of negotiations.
The Lords' Energy and Environment sub-committee also raised concerns about the "overwhelming reliance" on EU citizens in crucial veterinary positions and urged ministers to make sure the industry was able to fill those roles after Brexit.
The report said: "Our evidence strongly suggests that the greatest threat to farm animal welfare standards post-Brexit would come from UK farmers competing against cheap, imported food from countries that produce to lower standards than the UK.
"Unless consumers are willing to pay for higher welfare products, UK farmers could become uncompetitive and welfare standards in the UK could come under pressure."
They warned that imports from lower-welfare countries could "undermine the sustainability of the industry or incentivise a race to the bottom for welfare standards - contrary to the wishes of the UK industry".