Into each life a little rain must fall, and it has come pouring down this week on disgraced former Defence Secretary Liam Fox, now for some reason our International Trade minister, who has been in the USA as part of his drive to pretend that leaving the EU will be the easiest thing in the world. A trade deal with Washington DC would be done so quickly and easily that we would hardly notice. And then came the chicken.
Liam Fox looks queasy. I WONDER WHY
Doing a deal with the USA might mean having to accept some of their farming standards - which soon had the media homing in on the way that producers Stateside process chickens. Animal welfare standards are less rigorous than in the EU, and to ensure the carcasses are clear of contamination, they are washed in strongly chlorinated water. And so it came to pass that Fox had to field the $64,000 chicken question.
Would he eat it? The BBC couldn’t get a straight answer: “Asked whether he would be happy eating chlorinated chicken, Mr Fox suggested that the British media was ‘obsessed’ by the issue and asked whether reporters would be shunning US chicken during their visit … In what he described as the ‘complex’ process of negotiating an over-arching deal to advance the mutual prosperity of the US and UK people, he suggested the issue ranked low down on his list of current priorities”. The press smelt a rat.
And the Independent was ready and waiting: “Liam Fox challenged to eat chlorine-washed chicken and have it broadcast on live TV”. Who might be offering this challenge? “Open Britain's executive director, James McGrory, issued the challenge after the International Trade Secretary claimed the British media were ‘obsessed’ with chlorine-washed chickens, before describing them as a ‘detail’ to consider in the later stages of any trade negotiations”. Well, if it’s a mere “detail”, eating the stuff should be no big deal.
Anyone for some nice Stateside chicken? Don't all shout at once
Even the Murdoch Sun, which yesterday claimed that chlorine washing was part of “procedures that make US chickens safer than ours” (like heck), ran the headline “FOX CHICKENS OUT … Liam Fox refuses to say he would eat a chlorine-washed chicken as poultry row overshadows his US trade visit”.
Steve Hawkes’ article also reminds Sun readers of a previous occasion when ministers wanted to demonstrate meat was safe to eat: “Open Britain said that by eating American chicken, Mr Fox could follow the famous example of then Minister John Gunmer [sic] - who got his daughter to eat a beef burger for the cameras during the BSE crisis”.
So why won’t Fox, as the Sun’s editorial yesterday says he should, just confirm that he would eat chlorine washed chicken? After all, he’s an enthusiast for all things USA - he should jump at the chance. Otherwise, he just hands the initiative to people like James McGrory of Open Britain to suggest recipes such as “Chlorination Chicken” and deliver the killer pay-off “The proof of the chicken is in the eating. He must be the only Fox who doesn’t want to eat one”. The only Fox to be chicken live on camera, in fact.
And now his cabinet colleague Michael “Oiky” Gove has overruled him anyway. We might not know what Labour Brexit would look like, but we can be certain that the Tory version will be a complete and absolute shambles. No change there, then.