The deal unveiled this week for Britain to exit the European Union would block U.S. plans to negotiate a free trade agreement with the U.K., preventing a new opening for American agricultural trade with the country, several British officials tell Agri-Pulse.

The plan announced by Prime Minister Theresa May would essentially keep the U.K beholden to all of the tariffs and customs, phytosanitary, sanitary and scientific regulations that U.S. farmers and ranchers were hoping to see removed during Brexit, say British politicians David Davis and Owen Paterson and Shanker Singham, a director at Britain’s Institute of Economic Affairs.

“We would not be able to do any deal with the U.S. and that could go on forever,” Davis said in an interview. “To be clear, we would not be able to control our own regulations and we would not be able to control our own tariffs and therefore we would not be able to do any free trade agreements.”

That’s very bad news for the Trump administration, which officially notified Congress last month that it wants to begin negotiating a free trade agreement with the U.K. as soon as it pulls out of the EU in May.

Davis and Paterson are Conservative Party members of Britain’s House of Commons. Davis was chosen by May to be Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union in 2016, but he resigned that post in July after differences with the Prime Minister. Paterson is a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The officials were interviewed Friday afternoon during a visit to Washington.

The U.S. exports virtually no pork or poultry to the U.K. now because of tight European restrictions. The are no U.S. chicken exports because of bans on the type of antimicrobial rinses used by most U.S. producers to prevent salmonella contamination. U.S. pork exports are stymied by an EU prohibition on ractopamine, a drug commonly used by U.S. ranchers to promote the production of lean meat.

National Pork Producers Council President Jim Heimerl said recently that the group would “not support a deal with the U.K. unless it agrees to equivalence, meaning that all USDA-approved pork and pork products must be eligible for export to the U.K. without additional requirements,”

If the British Parliament were to ratify the deal “with full regulatory alignment,” the U.K. would essentially be exiting the EU, but also re-entering a European customs union. Britain would not be able to get out without approval by the EU, said Singham.

Without “regulatory autonomy,” the U.K. would not be able to negotiate any free trade agreement, and that includes joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Japan has already reached out to the U.K., asking it to join the 11-country Pacific Rim trade deal that the U.S. pulled out of last year.

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The “Chequers deal” that May brokered with the EU has already proven unpopular in the U.K. – some of her cabinet have already resigned over it – but it’s still unclear if it will be rejected by Parliament. If it is rejected, there is another option that supporters call Plan A+. Singham, Davis and Paterson say it would treat the EU-U.K. relationship like a free trade agreement and cement Britain’s regulatory autonomy.

Don’t call it Plan B

“It’s not a plan B, which suggests a fallback, worse plan if your good plan fails,” said Singham. “The current plan is a disaster.”

And there will be plenty of time before the May 29 deadline to put Plan A+ in place, he said.

If the current plan is rejected, “there will be an intensification … of effort between the U.K. and the EU,” said Singham. “It will allow a political track to emerge where we can have a sensible solution to these problems, starting with the U.K. proposing a text of a trade agreement to the EU.”

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