Liam Fox flies to Washington to prepare for post-Brexit trade deal

Updated: 

Work will begin on preparing the ground for a post-Brexit trade deal with the United States when the International Trade Secretary flies into Washington.

Liam Fox will meet trade representative Robert Lighthizer for two days of talks at the first UK-US trade and investment working group.

European Union rules mean the UK cannot sign a deal until after it has quit the bloc but the discussions will pave the way for a future potential free trade agreement.

Mr Fox said: "The first meeting of the UK-US trade and investment working group is the start of the next chapter in our special relationship.

"Although it's too early to say exactly what would be covered in a potential deal, the working group is the means to ensure we get to know each other's issues and identify areas where we can work together to strengthen trade and investment ties.

"Our work as an international economic department has never been more important and our exit from the European Union offers an unprecedented opportunity to reshape our independent trading ambitions and build on the already strong trading relationship with our single largest trading partner - the US".

The Government was urged to ditch a ban on imports of chlorinated chicken to send a symbol that Britain was willing to make sensible compromises to reach a speedy trade deal.

Free market think tank the Adam Smith Institute said American chickens are more than a fifth cheaper than British ones and claimed three entire chlorine-washed birds would have to be eaten every day for an extended period to risk harm.

It warned that poultry market access is likely to be a take-it-or-leave-it condition of an agreement between the UK and US.

In a report it said there is a wealth of evidence about the safety of the chicken, including an assessment by the European Food Safety Authority that four types of chemical rinse, including chlorine dioxide, "would be of no safety concern".

Author Peter Spence said: "Trade critics like to suggest that signing a deal with the USA will mean that Brits will be forced to eat unsafe produce. In reality, chlorinated chicken is so harmless that even the EU's own scientific advisers have declared that it is 'of no safety concern'.

"Agreeing to US poultry imports would help to secure a quick US trade deal, and bring down costs for British households. European opposition to US agricultural exports has held up trade talks for years.

"By scrapping the ban on chlorinated chicken imports, the Government will send a signal to potential trading partners across the globe that the UK remains an open-facing and free trading nation."

Mr Fox will also meet commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, give a speech at the American Enterprise Institute and host a breakfast with members of Congress on the trade tour before heading to Mexico for talks with economy minister Ildefonso Guajardo.