Farmers across the UK are concerned by a UK trade deal offered to Australia with a 15-year transition to no tariffs and no quotas.
According to the National Farmers Union (NFU), large scale tariff liberalisation, even over a period of years, could impose severe pressure on farmgate prices, making farming unviable for many.
NFU President Minette Batters said, “It is wholly irresponsible for government to sign a trade deal with no tariffs or quotas on sensitive products which undermines our domestic economy and food production industry.
“It is incredibly concerning that the government is in a sprint to sign up a trade deal that would offer incredibly little benefit to the economy.
“We maintain that a tariff-free trade deal with Australia will jeopardise our own farming industry and could cause the demise of many, many beef and sheep farms throughout the UK. This is true whether tariffs are dropped immediately or in 15 years’ time.
“A trade deal that liberalises tariffs for Australian farmers will put UK farmers out of business”
“The Prime Minister and his government have pledged to level up the country. Agreeing to a tariff-free trade deal with a major agricultural exporter, with no safeguards or review mechanisms, would do exactly the opposite of that commitment and set swathes of rural Britain backwards.”
The NFU says the Trade and Agriculture Commission’s report in March 2021 set out important recommendations on safeguarding standards in trade deals to protect domestic agriculture.
But those environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards have not been set out by the government yet.
It says ongoing trade liberalisation, with countries that could include the United States, would have an enormous impact on UK domestic producers. That impact needs to be modelled ahead of free trade agreements being finalised.
And the Scottish Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon has written to the UK government saying it had, “Previously reassured the public that food standards will not be compromised, yet disagreed amendments to the Agriculture and Trade Bills that would have delivered reassurances.
“Trading with Australia will have a significant impact on the climate emergency”
“A free trade agreement with Australia must not undercut Scotland’s world leading food standards or lead to a zero tariff quota agreement.
“At a time when UK agri-food producers are facing significantly greater barriers to trade with Europe – the sector’s largest export market – it would be incomprehensible for the UK Government to sign up to a trade deal that facilitates mass imports of Australian agri-food produced to a lesser standard.
“A trade deal that liberalises tariffs for Australian farmers, to put it bluntly, will put UK farmers out of business.
“The UK Government’s own scoping assessment concluded that a UK-Australia free trade agreement would benefit UK GDP by a mere 0.02 per cent.
“The UK public have sent an unequivocal message that food standards must not be compromised. Recent consumer research conducted by Which? concluded that 94 per cent of respondents want food standards to be upheld.
“Trading with Australia will have a significant impact on the global environment and the climate emergency.
“Increasing imports of red meat from Australia, often produced on massive feed lots, is unsustainable, and runs contrary to the Scottish Government policy position that trade should support progress to achieve net zero.
“Moreover, increasing imports from Australia, will merely offshore UK emissions to the southern hemisphere, whilst increasing global emissions from transport.”