By Kenny MacAskill, East Lothian MP

I’M AN admirer of America which isn’t always universal for people of my political persuasion. Certainly not of their Government or their policies, but definitely the beauty of its landscape and the diversity and dynamism of the people. I’ve been visiting since 1979 when I criss-crossed the continent on the Greyhound buses, and I’ve been fortunate to go back many times since.

That said, a trade deal with the Unites States fills me with dread. For much as I enjoy my trips, I’m more convinced than ever that I prefer living in a society that has a national health service and strict environmental regulations. Leaving the EU is one thing but cosying up to the USA is quite another.

That’s why decisions in Westminster last week could have such a damaging effect upon us all. Assurances by the Tory Government that the NHS will be protected ring hollow when the Americans say the exact opposite and backdoor privatisation can take place through pharmaceuticals and health services. A few years ago, when staying with a friend in New York, I was invited to dine with Wilbur Ross, who’s now Trump’s Commerce Secretary.

I didn’t warm to the man, finding him cold and ruthless; yet he’s stated that Brexit’s a chance to “eat the UK’s lunch” and we should be fearful with him in charge.

Just as concerning was the failure last week to protect our environment and agriculture. As well as gobbling up our cherished institutions, it’s what we might find ourselves forced to eat.

Reduced standards could lead to chlorinated chicken and with American Rye undermining the global brand of Scotch Whisky. East Lothian, with its fertile soil, is rightly proud of the quality of its food and drink, and that’s threatened by any reduction in standards. Protecting the reputation and brand’s critical. Holidaying in the USA’s fun but accepting their food standards and health system’s frightening.