Theresa Villiers Oxford Farming Conference 2020

Theresa Villiers has promised chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-treated beef will not enter the UK as part of a US trade deal, in a seeming correction to an earlier statement made this week.

The environment secretary confirmed on Thursday that the UK would maintain the European Union’s “legal barriers”, in the face of expected pressure from Donald Trump to remove the ban during negotiations.

In an interview with the BBC’s Countryfile due to be shown later this month, the environment secretary said: “We will not be importing chlorinated chicken. We will not be importing hormone-treated beef. Both of those are illegal under EU law, which we are importing into our domestic system.”

She insisted Britain “will hold the line” in negotiations. “We will defend our national interest and our values including our high standards of animal welfare.”

Her latest comments contrast those made earlier in the week at the Oxford Farming Conference, where she suggested new tariffs under World Trade Organization rules would be implemented to limit entry.

“That is what the powerful tools of the WTO do, they enable us to impose tariffs where we believe products do not meet our high standards,” she said.

Leaked documents from US-UK trade talks revealed last year that US officials were encouraging the UK to develop regulatory autonomy from the EU after Brexit and offered to “share their public lines on chlorine-washed chicken to help inform the media narrative around the issue”.