The UK Environment Secretary said future trade deals would not involve a “race to the bottom”, while a new environmental governance body with “considerable teeth” would be set up to hold ministers to account.

And he insisted Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as “equal partners” in the UK, would be fully involved in the new arrangements.

Giving evidence to the Environment Committee via video link, Mr Gove said: “The involvement of the devolved administrations in making sure that we get the right trade deal is central.

“We have been clear at a UK Government level… we absolutely need to maintain high environmental standards, and for that matter high animal welfare standards, in any trade deal that we conclude.

“There is no future for the United Kingdom in trying to lead some sort of race to the bottom, the future for us economically is being the home of quality, whether that’s in the food and drink that we produce, or also in areas like for example ultra-low emission vehicles.”

He said a new environmental watchdog would be established to uphold standards, and replicate functions currently carried out by the European Commission and European Court of Justice.

“We think it will have considerable teeth, it will have the capacity to enforce compliance with the law,” he said.

“Ultimately it would have the power to take the government to court.”

Mr Gove said the body could operate on a UK-wide basis, or separate devolved organisations could be established.

“I am open completely to thinking from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland about how our shared commitment to these principles (on environmental standards) and to how appropriate governance should be given effect at a devolved level,” he said.

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