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Business news - live: UK told to accept US food standards after Brexit, as British farmers warn of no-deal ‘decimation’

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Ben Chapman
Thursday 15 August 2019 08:27
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Dispatches programme on chlorinated chicken in the US

Britain must accept US food standards such as allowing chlorinated chicken and genetically modified crops as part of any post-Brexit trade deal, the head of America’s powerful farming lobby has suggested.

The comments from Zippy Duval, presiddent of the American Farm Bureau, to the BBC came as British farmers demanded a referendum on any Brexit deal, warning they face “decimation” if the UK crashes out of the EU without an agreement.

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Asda chief executive and president Roger Burnley is really not happy about Brexit.

He says: "If ever a case study on the impact the mood of the nation has on UK spending habits were needed, this quarter has provided it.

"Consumer confidence levels are at an almost six-year low - due in no small part to the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit and amplified by the impact of weather and tracking against national sporting events in the same period last year.

"As a result our non-food business has been challenged during the period, however we're satisfied that our food business has continued to perform well and our online growth continues to outpace the market."

Despite all this, Asda's total sales were up 1.3 per cent In the three months to 30 June.

ben.chapman15 August 2019 03:18
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Good morning and welcome to The Independent's coverage of today's business and economic events.

More than half of farms will go bust if Boris Johnson forces through a no-deal Brexitfarmers are warning, as some join the campaign for a fresh referendum.

A deadly cocktail of immediate tariffs, border checks, increased red tape and cheaper food imports from outside the EU will result in the “decimation of UK farming”, a detailed study finds.

Read the full story here from our deputy political editor Rob Merrick:

ben.chapman15 August 2019 09:15
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The UK has been told by the American farming lobby that it must accept US standards such as allowing chlorinated chicken and the sale of genetically modified crops as part of a post-Brexit trade deal.

Zippy Duval, head of the American Farm Bureau, told the BBC that fears about US practices were not "science-based".

He said: "You know, here in America we treat our water with chlorine," Mr Duvall told the BBC's Today programme.

"So there is no scientific basis that says that washing poultry with a chlorine wash just to be safe of whatever pathogens might be on that chicken as it was prepared for the market, should be taken away.

"If there was something wrong with it our federal inspection systems would not be allowing us to use that," he added.

ben.chapman15 August 2019 09:20
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The infamous chlorinated chicken has become symbolic of the wider debate around potential lowering of UK food standards after Brexit.

What exactly is it and how much should we care?

Here's a rundown of the science behind treating chicken meat with chlorine wash, which is allowed in America but banned in the EU:

ben.chapman15 August 2019 09:25
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The US has already laid out what it is looking for from a trade deal with the UK:

It specifically does not like EU measures it deems to be not "science-based".

In trade speak:

"Obtain commitment that the UK will not foreclose export opportunities to the United States with respect to third-country export markets, including by requiring third countries to align with non-science based restrictions and requirements or to adopt SPS measures that are not based on ascertainable risk."

"SPS measures" = food hygiene standards

Worth noting that while US farmers may not believe a ban on chlorinated chicken is science-based, there are far more cases of salmonella per person in the US than in the UK.

ben.chapman15 August 2019 09:51
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No-deal Brexit could force more than half of British farms out of business, farmers are warning.

Why?

* The EU, plus third countries with which it has trade agreements, would immediately slap tariffs on food exports from the UK.

Tariff-free imports of many agricultural products would have to be offered to non-EU countries as well, including the USA, Brazil and Australia – undermining domestic farming

* It would also be hit by new non-tariff barriers, including administrative costs and border checks to ensure compliance with EU food safety and animal health regulations.

* It would face an effective trade embargo on exports of animal-based products, while the UK and the EU negotiated an agreement.

* The removal of support payments – with only a proportion likely to be covered by Whitehall – and an adverse trading environment will “render the majority of farm businesses unviable”.

ben.chapman15 August 2019 09:55
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Meanwhile, the competition watchdog has called for the break-up of two recently-merged medical technology firms after finding the deal could lead to the NHS and charities paying higher prices.

Sweden-based Tobii bought UK rival Smartbox for £11m last year, but the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has now ordered Tobii to sell off the business.

The announcement comes after an investigation by independent CMA panel members concluded that the tie-up could result in a reduction in "quality, less new product development, and higher prices".

Press Association

ben.chapman15 August 2019 10:11
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In the markets, the FTSE 100 has opened up 0.5 per cent down at 7,115.53.

Tobacco companies are the biggest climbers, RBS and B&Q owner Kingfisher are the worst performers.

European stocks are stabilising after fears of a recession sparked a sell-off yesterday.

ben.chapman15 August 2019 10:12
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UK retail sales grew in July, lifted by a surge in online sales, according to official data.

The quantity bought last month rose 0.2 per cent compared with June, defying economists’ forecasts for a 0.2 per cent drop. Non-store retailing, which covers mostly online sales, jumped 6.9 per cent.

  

Compared with July 2018, overall sales grew 3.3 per cent, again boosted by online shopping. This was a smaller rise than in June but above economists’ expectations.  

However, on the three-month measure, which strips out some of the volatility in the figures, sales ticked up only by 0.5 per cent from the February-April period. This was the slowest pace of growth since the end of last year.

ben.chapman15 August 2019 10:13
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Duncan Brewer, retail and consumer partner at Oliver Wyman, says there were two main drivers behind July’s retail sales: a record-breaking heatwave that kept shoppers away from bricks-and-mortar shops and heavy discounting online. 

He says:

“Our research shows that 75 per cent of purchases during heavy discounting periods cannibalise full-price sales, as UK shoppers look to buy planned purchases rather than new, spontaneous products.”

“Looking ahead, Brexit will be a major factor in consumer spending behaviour regardless of discounting. Shoppers will likely buy their Christmas shopping ahead of the 31 October deadline to avoid higher prices due to increased tariffs in the case of a no-deal Brexit.”

ben.chapman15 August 2019 10:26

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