LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s government said on Tuesday it would not compromise on the National Health Service (NHS), environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards in talks with the United States about a post-Brexit trade deal.
Critics of the negotiations have raised concerns about the possibility of U.S. firms carving out parts of the NHS and selling food products, such as hormone-treated beef, which are currently prohibited.
“The government remains clear on protecting the NHS and not compromising on the UK’s high environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards,” trade minister Elizabeth Truss said after a second round of talks with Washington.
Truss last week accused the United States of talking “a good game” on free trade while keeping many British exports out of its markets.
On Tuesday, she said the talks were “positive and constructive” but she reiterated that London was not in a rush to get a trade deal with the United States.
“The government is clear there is no set deadline for this agreement,” she said. “Quality is more important than speed.”
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in January that he was optimistic the United States and Britain would strike a trade deal this year.
U.S. President Donald Trump is keen for progress on trade talks before November’s presidential election, while in Britain the prospect of a deal has been held up by Brexit supporters as one of the rewards of leaving the European Union.
Truss reported “good progress” on a chapter in the talks for small and medium-sized businesses and said Britain had stressed the need for an ambitious deal for its huge financial services.
On business services, both sides discussed how regulators could work more closely on qualifications and licensing. There was also discussion of ways to help the legal services sector.
A third negotiating round is expected to take place at the end of July, Truss said.
(Reporting by Kate Holton; Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Paul Sandle and Nick Macfie)