Farming organisations have welcomed the decision by the UK government to suspend talks with Canada on a new trade deal, amid disagreements on access to agricultural markets.

Negotiations on a deal began in March 2022, although interim arrangements had been in place until the end of 2023, after both countries agreed post-Brexit to replicate the Canadian deal that exists with the EU.

With those arrangements coming to an end, UK cheese exports to Canada have been caught in the crossfire and now face punitive tariffs to access the Canadian market.

Hormone beef

It has been widely reported that the major sticking point in negotiations has been the UK refusal to accept hormone-treated beef, with the practice widely used on Canadian finishing units. However, it is understood that UK negotiators have also refused to accept Canada’s use of antimicrobial livestock carcase washes in slaughterhouses, with peroxyacetic acid used to prevent E-coli. In the UK, any visible contamination (eg by faeces) must be removed by trimming the carcase.


NFU president Minette Batters suggested Canada was demanding too much and offering too little during trade talks.

“During those negotiations, we understand that Canada made repeated attempts to force the UK to change its food safety rules and to extract unreasonable concessions for maintaining our preferential access to its cheese market.

“While there is give and take within every trade deal, the UK government has been clear that lowering the UK’s high standards of food safety is not an option, in these and all negotiations. This position is wholeheartedly supported by the NFU,” she said.

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