The row over chlorine-washed chicken should be a wake-up call to British free traders. It is a sign of the opposition that any new trade deals will face. The producer interests keen to oppose the extra competition that free trade brings are organised and ready to go. But the consumers who’d benefit from greater choice and lower prices have no organised, political voice at present.
There is a danger that trade deal after trade deal is derailed or limited by the kind of scare tactics we have seen in recent days; having not had a trade policy for 40-odd years, there are few people in this country versed in how to make the case against protectionism. There is no group ready and waiting to speak for the shopper who might like the option of buying cheaper but less tasty chicken.
If Britain were to leave the European Union, and then fail to sign meaningful trade deals because of the opposition of various vested interests then Brexit would not have been worth it. As I say in the magazine this week, Brexit isn’t a guarantee of success, it is just the removal of constraint. If this country doesn’t seize the chances that it presents, then it won’t be a success.