The Environment Secretary and frontline Brexiteer has repeatedly pushed back against claims he will allow chlorine washed chicken from the US to be imported into Britain.
Chicken is washed with chlorine to remove disease from intensively farmed poultry and is widespread on US farms but was banned in the EU in 1997.
Now Mr Gove has claimed the aim to ensure food sold in Britain is reared with high welfare standards could hold up a trade deal with the US.
Speaking to the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, he said he would ensure UK welfare standards were protected.
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Mr Gove said: "We want to have a free trade deal, but, of course, we need to have those protections, and if we can't achieve protections in those areas then any deal will necessarily have a slightly narrower scope."
Asked if this could slow down the process of negotiating a trade deal with the US, he said “yes”.
Mr Gove’s comments will come as a relief for British poultry farmers, who raise their stock with some of the highest food welfare standards in the world and risk being pushed out of the market by international exporters who sell cheaper, lower quality produce.
But his assurances clash with fellow Brexit campaigner Liam Fox, who claimed there was no health issue with chlorine washed chicken – and the matter would simply be "a detail of the very end stage of one sector of a potential free trade agreement".