The Prime Minister last week vowed to stem a feared flood of sub-standard American products into the UK by insisting controversial foods such as hormone-fed beef and chlorinated chicken must be subject to high import tariffs.
His move – hailed last night as a significant victory in the battle to protect ‘higher-quality’ British farming as well as our traditional landscape – was a blow to International Trade Secretary Ms Truss, a staunch free marketer who is thought to have wanted duties reduced to nothing within a decade.
Crucial to Mr Johnson’s decision was the influence of Ms Symonds, a long-standing animal welfare campaigner who is understood to back plans to penalise US producers who raise animals in cruel conditions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) has sided with his fiancee Carrie Symonds (left) and overruled Liz Truss by ordering tariffs on chlorinated chicken in the first round of Cabinet battle on trade
She is a patron of The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation and spoke last year at an event it hosted on the issue.
Ms Symonds has also promoted the party’s policies on stopping the trade in ivory, installing CCTV in slaughterhouses, increasing sentences for animal cruelty and on recognising that animals feel suffering.
Her views helped inform Mr Johnson’s decision on tariffs at a special ministerial meeting last week.
There he backed Environment Secretary George Eustice, who warned that unless high duties were imposed, cheaper, sub-standard American food would put British farmers out of business.
Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss (pictured is said to be ‘fuming’ over the decision, with sources warning that the Trade Secretary – whose free-market views have the backing of Chancellor Rishi Sunak – could yet ‘sabotage’ Mr Johnson’s tough stance in post-Brexit trade talks with Washington
Ms Truss is said to be ‘fuming’ over the decision, with sources warning that the Trade Secretary – whose free-market views have the backing of Chancellor Rishi Sunak – could yet ‘sabotage’ Mr Johnson’s tough stance in post-Brexit trade talks with Washington.
In any case, the Prime Minister still faces calls to prove he is serious about protecting British food standards, either by enshrining the pledge in legislation now going through Parliament or by a public declaration.
Writing in today’s Mail on Sunday on the facing page, former Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers says: ‘We must hold our Ministers’ feet to the fire to ensure they do stay firm and resolute.’
She welcomed the pledge on higher tariffs but said it would be better if US chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef remained banned.
The row, at special meeting of the ‘XS’ Cabinet sub-committee – the ‘exit strategy’ group to manage Brexit – comes two weeks after The Mail on Sunday launched its Save Our Family Farms campaign to highlight the threat to domestic food producers if a free trade deal with Washington opened the floodgates to inferior US produce.
It also comes after 18 Tory MPs, including Ms Villiers, rebelled and tried to amend the Agriculture Bill to add protections for British farmers against low-standard imports.
Ministers’ horns have been locked in Cabinet over whether the price of securing a lucrative US trade deal should involve opening up the UK market to controversial US foodstuffs banned by the EU.
Ms Truss, MP for an East Anglian constituency with many farmers, is understood to believe British shoppers should have a ‘Brexit dividend’ of cheaper food and proposed a plan where tariffs on US products would be reduced to zero over a ten-year period to achieve that.
Ms Symonds is a patron of The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation and spoke last year at an event it hosted on the issue
Sources said the Prime Minister’s insistence on a ‘dual tariff’ regime with high levies on unhealthy or cruelly-produced food would ‘make it uneconomical for US producers to export to Britain’.
Higher-quality American products, such as organically-reared and free-range meat would be subject to lower tariffs.
Last night, the Government insisted there would be no compromise on UK food safety and animal welfare, saying that ‘all food coming into this country is required to meet the UK’s important standards’.
However, some MPs privately said that did not preclude relaxing any law in the future.
The Prime Minister last week vowed to stem a feared flood of sub-standard American products into the UK by insisting controversial foods such as hormone-fed beef and chlorinated chicken must be subject to high import tariffs
And in a joint letter to Tory MPs, Ms Truss and Mr Eustice sought to calm their fears by stating that the current ban on hormone-fed meat and chlorinated chicken would remain after the UK was fully outside EU, saying any change would have to be passed by Parliament.
Neil Parish, the Tory chairman of the Commons environment, food and rural affairs committee, last month told the BBC: ‘I trust George Eustice. Whether I trust Liz Truss in the same way I’m not sure…’
Last night, allies of Ms Truss hit out at what they see as attempts to ‘demonise’ her as somehow the champion of unsafe food. ‘This is complete rubbish,’ said one.
But one senior Minister who backs the ‘dual tariff’ plan said: ‘Our fear is that Liz Truss, a fanatical free marketeer, is so angry she will try to sabotage the trade talks by allowing the Americans to reject the tariff idea.
So although Boris has intervened, this is just a battle won. The war is definitely not over.’
The National Farmers’ Union has described Mr Johnson’s decision as ‘a significant step forwards’, but it wants the tariff enforced by an independent commission.
Fresh attempts to protect British farmers are expected this week when the Agriculture Bill begins its passage through the Lords.
Tory peer and ex-Agriculture Minister Lord Deben (formerly John Gummer) suggested that Mr Johnson’s decision to allow imports of hormone-fed beef and chlorinated chicken, even with tariffs, would breach the Tories’ 2019 Election manifesto to uphold food and animal welfare standards in post-Brexit trade talks.
He said: ‘Do we really want to encourage the importation of meat which is produced in a way which is illegal in Britain?’
He also raised fears that once US hormone-produced beef is allowed in on a tariff basis, Ministers could reduce the levies in the future to the detriment of food quality and the livelihoods of British farmers.
A Deltapoll survey for this newspaper found last week that nearly three-quarters of respondents felt that maintaining UK welfare standards should be a higher priority than reaching a deal with Washington.
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Priti Patel plans to fly at least 1,000 migrants back to Italy, Germany and France
The Home Office is planning to fly at least 1,000 migrants who crossed the English Channel back to Italy, Germany and France in a series of weekly flights.
More than 6,000 refugees have crossed from France in crowded dinghies so far this year.
The Immigration Enforcement Secretariat said the Government and Ms Patel are ‘equally frustrated by the severity of the situation’.
The Home Office is looking to send 1,000 migrants back to Europe having crossed The Channel
The Government office warned it cannot take simple measures such as returning migrants after intercepting them at sea, due to legal constraints.
Talks are ongoing to get more UK funded officers on French beaches to prevent people trying to make the dangerous crossing.
The 1,000 migrants who would be flown back to Europe would be returning to countries where they have already had asylum claims granted.
Only 29 arriving migrants were sent back to France in 2019.
The Immigration Enforcement Secretariat official told The Telegraph: ‘There is considerable policy work underway to address where the UK’s immigration and asylum system is being exploited and abused… As it currently stands, the system is inflexible and rigid, and is open to abuse by both migrants and activist lawyers to frustrate the returns of those who have no right to be here.’
Earlier this week it was revealed the Home Office was eyeing up two former army bases as temporary sites to house refugees while their asylum claims are processed.
Around 400 refugees, including families, will be kept at the Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent, after the site was also offered to the Home Office by the Ministry of Defence.
The MoD has also offered Penally Training Camp in Wales, more than 300 miles away from the English Channel.
It could house 250 asylum seekers.
A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘During these unprecedented times, the government is working with a range of partners and across departments to secure further accommodation and the MoD has offered use of some of its sites.
‘When using contingency accommodation we work closely with organisations, including local authorities and law enforcement, throughout the process to ensure value for money and that vulnerable asylum seekers, who would otherwise be destitute, have suitable accommodation while their claims are processed.’
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Game of drones: Air corridor set up for flying postal service
Ambitions of an airborne postal service have moved a step closer due to a ‘flight corridor’ being created near Reading.
The five mile long aerial highway, the first commercial route of its type in the world, will be set up south of the Berkshire town by the end of the year, according to the Times.
Drone pilots will be able to to control them beyond their line of sight, which is not normally the case under existing regulations.
A new air traffic control system for unmanned devices will monitor the corridor and feed automated instructions to the drones to keep them away from others or change path if they’re in danger of crashing.
The corridor, a third of a mile in width will operate in the same normal airspace used by commercial jets, helicopters and light aircraft.
Ambitions of an airborne postal service have moved a step closer due to a ‘flight corridor’ being created near Reading
The move still needs to be rubber-stamped by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) but it hoped to be live next year in the first large-scale trial of its kind.
Small parcels, medical supplies and blood or tissue samples are examples of the kind of packages that could be delivered via drones in the controlled area.
Under current rules, drones must be flown away from built-up areas, within a pilot’s visual range, usually up to 1,600ft, and cannot soar higher than 400ft to avoid other aircraft.
However, the new system created by Altitude Angel, an aviation technology company based in Reading, monitors every drone movement and gives them the freedom to fly.
The air traffic control system will be created by using radar and multiple tracking sensors within the corridor.
Drone operators can send instructions such as ‘change flight path, hold, return or land’ but the control system is then able to intervene if the request is not followed for whatever reason.
The system will initially be tested using two drones, travelling in either direction simultaneously, before then being scaled up to create four drone lanes going each way and two or three highways at different altitudes.
Richard Parker, founder and chief executive of Altitude Angel, told the paper: ‘The size of this step cannot be underestimated.
‘Beyond visual line of sight automated flight in unrestricted airspace is a very significant barrier to overcome in order to realise the vision of mass-commercial drone usage.’
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ANDREW MARR tells how moral values of the Elizabethan age can lift us from our travails today
Tuesday, June 2, 1953: Coronation Day. With London decked out to celebrate its 27-year-old Queen, there was only one story in town. Or rather, two.
Just four days earlier, with perfect timing, two men, hacking through the snow, had made it to the top of the world’s highest mountain. Edmund Hillary was a tall Kiwi beekeeper with a huge, goofy smile. And his companion, Tenzing Norgay, was a devout Buddhist who had lived a life of profound physical poverty as a mountain bearer.
Reaching the summit of Mount Everest was, in the early 1950s, an extraordinary achievement. So all Britain was keeping one eye on this record-breaking attempt. But would they be aware of their Herculean achievement by the time the new monarch was crowned?
That responsibility fell to the young correspondent of The Times, James Morris, waiting at base camp nearly 18,000ft up. It was Morris, scribbling against the clock, who sent a coded message via a physical runner to the Silk Road village of Namche Bazaar.
From there it went by wireless to the British Embassy in Kathmandu. And so, thanks to Morris, The Times had its story in time for a Coronation special, to inaugurate what people called the new Elizabethan age.
Cheer: A party in Northampton marking the Coronation in 1953
It sounds like a tale from a vanished era of old-fashioned heroism. But there was a twist. Even at the time, Morris was wrestling with an issue that has since become very familiar. Ever since he was three or four years old, when he remembered sitting underneath his mother’s piano while she was playing Sibelius, he had felt he had been born into the wrong body. He should have been a girl.
So it was that 20 years later, he made the transition from man to woman, first with drugs and then through perilous surgery in Morocco. James Morris, successful journalist, travel writer and historian, became Jan Morris, ditto.
Today, trans rights and gender fluidity are the most fashionable and contentious aspects of Britain’s fractious 21st-century culture wars. But Morris’s story is a reminder that our recent history was never as straightforward as it’s often painted.
It’s also a small example of how, by digging a little deeper into our national history through individual stories, we can recapture some of its lost freshness.
So in my new book, looking at how Britain has changed since the Coronation in 1953, I’ve tried to tell the story of change through the histories of people such as Jan Morris, from explorers and writers to artists, scientists, musicians and entrepreneurs.
It’s easy to caricature the lost world of the 1950s. We’re often told that it was racist, misogynistic and homophobic, and that we lived in a dim, gaslit pre-liberalism.
And there is no doubt that aspects of post-war Britain were dingy.
The food was meagre and tasteless, the cities grimy, the clothes were unflattering, and industrial and domestic smoke hung in the air.
The moral atmosphere could be harshly censorious. This was still the Britain of the school cane, the hangman and the backstreet abortionist, who had wearily seen it all, knocking on the back door with her bag full of knitting needles and vinegar.
It’s easy to caricature the lost world of the 1950s. And there is no doubt that aspects of post-war Britain were dingy
Many single mothers gave up their babies for adoption. Pauline Prescott, then a hairdresser in Chester, had her first child in a Catholic home for unmarried mothers. The baby boy was later adopted by a family living many miles away in Wolverhampton.
She only made contact with him again when he was in his 40s, after a long and honourable military career. By then she was married to Labour’s Deputy Prime Minister. But it was not an unusual story.
The mother of the novelist Ian McEwan had her first baby during the war, while her husband was serving overseas, and placed an ad in her local paper: ‘Wanted, home for baby boy aged one month: complete surrender’. She handed the baby over to a couple at Reading Station. The boy, David Sharp, had a happy childhood and grew up to work as a bricklayer.
He lived a few miles away from the famous novelist, without either knowing about the other’s existence for half a century. It is an extraordinary story, but not as rare as we might think.
And yet a moment of common sense reflection tells us that the British of the early years of the Queen’s reign must have lived their lives in full colour, not black and white.
The young were brimming with youth. Every variety of sexual experimentation was vigorously attempted. And despite the newsreel depictions of an endless grey winter, spring kept coming around more or less on time every April.
The mother of the novelist Ian McEwan had her first baby during the war, while her husband was serving overseas, and placed an ad in her local paper
Britons may have more rights today, and be wealthier materially. But I don’t believe that necessarily makes us happier, more fulfilled or more virtuous.
Of course, there’s much we have lost. Churchgoing, for example, was once a genuinely collective activity.
Children attended Sunday school, where they were tutored in Bible stories and Christian morality. Their parents sat through sermons. Vicars, ministers and priests made regular visits to homes all over Britain, unannounced but expected.
But Christianity’s influence has endured, not least in our politics. Margaret Thatcher was the daughter of a Methodist lay preacher; Tony Blair converted to Catholicism after leaving office; Gordon Brown is the son of a Church of Scotland minister; Theresa May is an Anglican vicar’s daughter.
And among the rest of us, too, its legacy is far from dead.
Still, there’s no doubt that in the decades immediately after the Coronation, something changed. These were the years of the sexual revolution, the pushing back of the punitive state, the use and tolerance of drugs and an unmistakable decay in the social and religious hierarchies.
It was largely driven by a small group of Left-wing politicians, often inspired by their enthusiasm for America. A good example was the Labour and future SDP politician Shirley Williams, the daughter of the famous 1930s writer Vera Brittain.
Christianity’s influence has endured, not least in our politics. Margaret Thatcher was the daughter of a Methodist lay preacher
As a prisons minister in Harold Wilson’s government in 1966, Williams persuaded the authorities to send her to Holloway women’s prison, her identity kept secret. When her cellmates asked what she was in for, she explained that she was ‘on the game’.
It’s hard to imagine one of Boris Johnson’s ministers doing the same today.
Like many of her friends, Williams was inspired by the informality and democratic optimism she had seen in America, and wanted to build a similarly sunny world, without the crabbed, confined divisions of the British class system. But as so often, things didn’t always turn out how the liberal reformers anticipated.
Her friend and colleague Tony Crosland, also an admirer of all things American, dreamed of reforming Britain’s schools on a truly egalitarian basis.
But instead of taking on private schools like his own alma mater, Highgate, he decided to attack the state grammar schools, which had allowed so many working-class children a ladder up.
In a celebrated and notorious scene, he told his wife Susan: ‘If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to destroy every f***ing grammar school in England.’
But he failed. Today there are more than 160 selective, state-funded grammar schools left in England.
And the argument about school selection rages on to this day, like a football kicked from one end of the muddy pitch to the other, with no goals being scored.
Perhaps the most underrated change of the 1960s, though, was the collapse of our self-image as the workshop of the world.
Manufacturing had shaped the look, sound, smell and social structure of the country for more than a century.
When the Queen’s reign began in 1952, Britain produced a quarter of the planet’s manufacturing exports. Today we make just two per cent. We were a more sinewy people back then. The world of factory work disciplined generations of British men, toiling on hot and dangerous production lines under the watchful eyes of their managers and shop stewards.
But even as Shirley Williams and Tony Crosland were climbing the political ladder, things were beginning to go wrong.
A good example is the story of Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA), then the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, but also famous for its Daimler and Lanchester cars.
Its managing director, Sir Bernard Docker, had succeeded his father Dudley in 1944. He married a Birmingham dance hostess, Norah, who became a national celebrity for her flamboyant, outspoken and provocative style. The doting Docker gave her a series of specially built Daimlers, such as the 1955 Golden Zebra, which sported an ivory dashboard and upholstery covered with zebra skin. As Lady Docker drily explained: ‘Zebra, because mink is too hot to sit on.’
But the Dockers were setting themselves up for a fall. Sir Bernard was spending too much time having fun and not nearly enough on the company.
And at a tumultuous meeting in London on a rain-soaked spring day in 1956, he was sacked as chairman for his extravagant expenses claims.
But it was too late. With its market share falling, BSA was sliding towards disintegration.
Daimler was sold to Jaguar four years later. By 1972, overtaken by cheaper and more reliable Japanese competitors, even the motorcycle business was defunct.
Not all British businesses fared as badly as BSA. The success of entrepreneurs such as James Dyson should remind us that we’re still the sixth largest economy in the world, with our GDP per capita about level pegging with the French and not very far behind Germany.
And in other ways, British innovators have changed the world. Think of Gerald Durrell, whose revolutionary zoo changed the way we think about animal welfare; or Anita Roddick, whose Body Shop led the charge for a more ethical capitalism.
But if we’re to thrive after Brexit, we’ll need to banish any trace of the Dockers’ complacency.
Our industries will need to be hungrier and harder, and take inspiration from our undoubted success in cultural and creative areas, and our ingenuity in computing and engineering.
Yet when I look back across our Queen’s reign, I’m reminded that there’s more to life than making money — important as that is. This has been the age of market values. Relentless consumers, we’ve been schooled to see most of our human exchanges in terms of price and profit. Too often we measure success by wealth, and confuse happiness with cool stuff.
But should we really judge our happiness by what we consume —holidays, consumer goods, large houses? And if a society comes to judge success by personal wealth, how can it deal with the large majority who will feel forever bruised and excluded?
Finishing this book during the coronavirus lockdown, I watched as we rediscovered the common notions of fairness, decency and mutual respect that were so familiar to our 1950s predecessors.
I was inspired by the stories of people like Captain Sir Tom Moore, with his record-breaking walk to raise money for the NHS; or Marcus Rashford, the Manchester United and England footballer, who raised around £20 million to supply three million meals to vulnerable people, and persuaded the Government to provide free school meal vouchers during the summer.
Here, I believe, is where we can learn from our past selves — from the more consciously moral, frugal, hard-working and optimistic Britain Jan Morris knew so well.
I was inspired by the stories of people like Captain Sir Tom Moore, with his record-breaking walk to raise money for the NHS
Yes, it was in many ways bigoted and rigidly hierarchical. But a decent future means taking the best of the past, ditching the mistakes and starting again.
Today, we have to learn to work harder, while being more generous in our global outlook, kinder to neighbours who look and sound different to ourselves, and more restrained in our personal tastes.
Does that sound impossibly pious? Or simply impossible? Then we should remember the struggles and achievements of our grandparents and parents. They were there first. They can teach us still.
n Elizabethans by Andrew Marr is published by William Collins £20. © Andrew Marr 2020. To order a copy for £17, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193. Free UK delivery on orders over £15. Offer price valid until October 3, 2020.
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