AUSTRALIA is preparing to demand the UK accepts hormone-treated beef as the condition of a post-Brexit trade deal.

Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, is hoping to secure a deal with Australia once Britain has left the European Union and informal discussions have been taking place for the past 18 months.

But in return, Britain will be told to scrap a EU ban on the sale of meat from cattle treated with growth hormones — which can include estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. The drugs boost production of growth-stimulating hormones that help the animal convert feed into muscle, fat, and other tissues more efficiently than they would naturally. The artificial plumping process boosts the amount of meat that farmers can sell per animal, putting more money into their pockets.

But the EU claims at least one of the hormones used is carcinogenic and has banned their use since 1981. The Australians dispute the EU’s position and believe the EU ban has been used to protect European farmers from competition.

Sources close to the talks told a daily newspaper yesterday that lifting the hormone-injected beef ban would be a key issue for the Australian negotiators and that Fox is understood to be sympathetic.

In a briefing paper for ministers, the Australian meat industry warned that if Britain imposed the ban post-Brexit “Australian producers will struggle to materially increase supply to the UK market”.

A spokesman for the Department for International Trade said: “This government has been very clear that the UK will maintain its own very high animal welfare and environmental standards in future free trade agreements. To say anything else is untrue.”