News / Good Trade Campaign

Government set to sign tariff-free deal with Australia

Newspaper reports have emerged overnight that the UK Government will agree a tariff-free deal with Australia today. At a meeting of senior cabinet ministers yesterday the impact of a deal involving Australian produce including beef and lamb was debated.

Conservative 2019 Manifesto pledge on trade and agri-food standards. Credit: The Conservative Party

Conservative 2019 Manifesto pledge on trade and agri-food standards. Credit: The Conservative Party

The Prime Minister reportedly sided with Trade Secretary Liz Truss, who is seeking to liberalise trade with Australia, including on food imports. It is understood that Agriculture Secretary George Eustice was opposed, seeking to limit the impact on British farmers.

Martin Kennedy, president of the National Farmers Union Scotland, told reporters, "We're extremely concerned about this deal because this is the first deal that the UK is actually doing as a standalone and we're concerned about the possibility of undermining our markets....For obvious reasons, they [the government] want to be able to see the UK 'taking back control' and making its own trade deals, but we must make sure that our own industries are protected. We're really worried that an oversupply of product coming in from areas like Australia could undermine our food production systems."

Vicki Hird, Head of Sustainable Farming at Sustain said:

“If these reports are true then the UK Government is on the path to breaking a manifesto commitment to the electorate. Ministers repeatedly promised to not let trade deals compromise our animal welfare, food safety and environmental standards. They also promised to set up a Trade and Agriculture Commission to report on potential impact, but it looks like they're going to sign this deal and potentially destroy our food standards before that has even been set up.

Australia permits the use of growth hormones and practices such as cutting the skin off live sheep, both of which are banned here. They permit the use of twice the number of hazardous pesticides as the UK does and use 16 times more antibiotics in poultry production. They have a lamentable record on clearing forests for agriculture and tackling climate change.

In the year the UK hosts COP 26, for the UK to strike a deal to increase cheap beef imports shipped from the other side of the world is simply extraordinary.”

See also our letter in the Times yesterday.

Act now and email your MP to ask they stand against this trade deal.

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Published 21 May 2021

Good Trade Campaign: Campaigning for good trade that benefits people and the planet at home and overseas.

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