POLITICS
04/11/2019 22:34 GMT | Updated 05/11/2019 10:18 GMT

US-UK Brexit Trade Deal Could Mean 'Rat Hairs And Maggots' In Food, Corbyn Warns

Labour leader steps up warnings about dangers of Boris Johnson cosying up to Donald Trump.

A Trump-Johnson trade deal could leave Britons facing rat hairs and maggots in their food after Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn is set to warn.

In another bid to ramp up the pressure on the PM’s close links to the US president, the Labour leader will use an election stump speech to claim that food safety standards would be lowered by an Anglo-American trade agreement.

On a visit to the former Labour seat of Harlow in Essex, Corbyn will also again accuse Boris Johnson of trying to “hijack” Brexit so he can sell out the NHS if he is returned to power in the general election on December 12.

Declaring that the Tories are preparing to unleash “Thatcherism on steroids”, he will again claim the party would open up the health service to US pharmaceutical companies and strip workers of their rights.

PA Wire/PA Images
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) meets US President Donald Trump at the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, USA.

But Corbyn will try to open a fresh front on plans for a trade deal between London and Washington, claiming that food safety and animal standards will be undermined by imports of not just chlorinated chicken.

“Given the chance, they’ll run down our rights at work, our entitlements to holidays, breaks and leave,” he will say.

“Given the chance, they’ll slash food standards to US levels where ‘acceptable levels’ of rat hairs in paprika and maggots in orange juice are allowed and they’ll put chlorinated chicken on our supermarket shelves.

“And given the chance, they’ll water down the rules on air pollution and our environment that keep us safe. They want a race to the bottom in standards and protections.”

PA Wire/PA Images

The food standards claims are based on current US regulations that set out how many foreign bodies are allowed in products.

American producers operate under a “Defect Levels Handbook,” which sets out the maximum number of maggots, insect fragments and mould that can be included before a food item is put on the market.

The handbook sets out that 11 rodent hairs are permissible in a 25-gram container of paprika or cinnamon; 10 milligrams of mammalian excreta (rat or mouse droppings) in every pound of cocoa beans; 30 insect fragments in a 100-gram jar of peanut butter.

US food manufacturers are also allowed one maggot per 250 millilitres of  orange and apple juice and two maggots for every 100 grams of the tomato paste used on pizzas. In the EU - and UK at present - there are no allowable limits for any foreign bodies in food products.

Although many trade experts believe Washington will push hard for agricultural standards to change in any deal, the UK’s Department for International Trade has insisted that it will not lower food, animal welfare or environmental standards as part of any free trade agreement.

“To suggest otherwise is completely false,” a spokesperson said this year.

The Tories have repeatedly dismissed Corbyn’s claims about NHS ‘sell-offs’ as lies and are sure to hit back hard at the latest claims about food safety.

The Labour leader will say that Johnson is seeking a post-Brexit trade deal with the US that would mean “full market access” to the NHS for US producers, pushing up the cost of medicines.

The Conservatives have consistently denied the NHS would be “on the table” in trade talks with President Donald Trump’s administration.

But Corbyn will say it is clear Johnson is preparing to betray pledges which he made during the 2016 EU referendum campaign.

“What Boris Johnson’s Conservatives want is to hijack Brexit to unleash Thatcherism on steroids,” he will say.

“Johnson and the Leave campaign promised to rebuild our NHS. Johnson stood in front of a bus and promised £350 million a week for the NHS.

“Now we find out that £500 million a week could be taken out of the NHS and handed to big drugs companies under his plans for a sell-out trade deal with Donald Trump.”

The Labour leader will say the Conservatives want to strip away a whole raft of employment and environmental protections in a move to a more deregulated US-style economic model.

He will say the Conservatives want to take Britain out of the EU because they knew voters would never back a return to the politics of the 1980s.

“Margaret Thatcher’s attack on the working people of our country left scars that have never healed and communities that have never recovered,” he will say.

“The Conservatives know they can’t win support for what they’re planning to do in the name of Thatcherism. So they’re trying to do it under the banner of Brexit instead.”

Corbyn will reiterate Labour’s commitment to “sort” Brexit within six months if they gain power, giving voters the final say in a referendum.

“It won’t be a re-run of 2016. This time the choice will be between leaving with a sensible deal or remaining in the European Union,” he will say.

However, Johnson hit back with a challenge of his own, demanding that Corbyn “come clean” about his own Brexit plan.

In a letter to Corbyn on Monday night, Johnson said voters deserve to have a “clear picture” of what each potential leader will do when it comes to leaving the European Union.

The PM said his opposite number has “sought to avoid explaining” what his plan is, and said he seems to want to “go back to square one”.

On the possibility of revoking Article 50, he wrote: “You rightly claim (for now at least) that the Liberal Democrat and SNP plan to revoke Article 50 is extreme - but if there is a hung Parliament you will depend on their votes.

“Will you confirm that, if there is a hung Parliament, you would never be willing to revoke Article 50?”

In her own election launch on Tuesday, Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson will claim a multi-billion pound ‘Remain bonus’ would boost the economy if the UK simply cancelled Brexit.

The Liberal Democrats forecast that if the UK stayed in the EU the economy will be 1.9% larger in 2024-25 - equivalent to £10bn a year - than it would be under the Conservative government’s Brexit deal.