'No deal' Brexit would be disruptive but UK and EU would take steps to secure food supplies, says Michael Gove

Authorities on both sides of the Channel would put measures in place to mitigate the impact of a no-deal Brexit on food supplies, according to Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

Responding to warnings from the National Farmers Union of a halt to food exports if Britain leaves the EU without a withdrawal agreement, Mr Gove today told a fringe event that a no-deal Brexit would be “disruptive”.

Asked if he was concerned about the impact of leaving the European Union without a deal, Mr Gove said: “I do worry about it and I think a deal would be much, much better.

“If we left without a deal, we and the EU would put in place all sorts of arrangements in order to make sure the impact was mitigated, but it is certainly not my favoured option.

“I don’t think intrinsically a no-deal Brexit with the right policies is harmful to the environment. I think we can do the right thing with our own domestic legislation and international commitments.

“But it is certainly the case that it would be disruptive initially and it would be a difficult period. It is certainly not something I would contemplate with a glad heart.”

Mr Gove also warned that Britain's environmental and food quality standards and animal welfare protections must not be diminished in order to secure new trade deals after Brexit.

Relaxation of regulations is widely seen as the key to striking a deal with the US, whose commerce secretary Wilbur Ross has warned that maintaining European standards which ban chlorine-washed chicken or GM crops would be a "landmine" to any trans-Atlantic agreement.

Mr Gove also rebuffed former foreign secretary Boris Johnson's call for a "super-Canada" free trade agreement with the EU, which would leave Britain free to develop its own system of standards and regulations.

Restating his support for Prime Minister Theresa May's Chequers plan for post-Brexit relations with the EU, Mr Gove told the fringe event: "I'm in favour of a super-Britain deal.

"The Prime Minister has put forward a plan which I support which would both have frictionless trade with the EU and no requirement for a border either in the Irish Sea or between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

"The Prime Minister has been clear we would not lower social or environmental protections. I think, rightly, that's where the public are."