Politics

SNP warn UK-Australia trade deal will ‘hammer’ Scottish farmers

THE SNP has warned the UK’s first ‘from scratch’ trade deal with another country since Brexit will “hammer” Scotland’s livestock producers.

The UK-Australia deal, which was agreed in principle in June, was formally signed off in a virtual ceremony this morning.

International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said it was expected to unlock more than £10billion of additional trade by eliminating tariffs on most UK exports.

It also includes arrangements on digital technology and the service sector.

“Our UK-Australia trade deal is a landmark moment in the historic and vital relationship between our two commonwealth nations,” she said. 

“This agreement is tailored to the UK’s strengths, and delivers for businesses, families, and consumers in every part of the UK – helping us to level up. We will continue to work together in addressing shared challenges in global trade, climate change and technological changes in the years ahead.”

However the UK Government announcement made no mention of farming or agriculture, despite fears it could lead to Australian’s mega farms undercutting smaller UK ones.

British farmers should be protected by a cap on tariff-free imports for 15 years, using tariff rate quotas and other safeguards

However the National Farmers Union Scotland recently warned that would only delay unfettered access for Australian exporters, not protect UK producers.

The SNP said tariff rate quotas could become more advantageous for Australian producers and allow them to flood the market with specific cuts of beef and lamb.

The party also said there were no protections to ensure Australian farmers had to meet the same high animal welfare and environmental standards in place in the UK.

SNP International Trade spokesperson Drew Hendry said: “Despite the repeated warnings, the Tory government has ploughed ahead with its damaging post-Brexit plans – which will hammer Scottish farmers and our key industries.

“Beyond the rhetoric, the UK government’s own assessment makes clear that this trade deal with Australia will open up the market to cheaper imports of goods produced to lower animal welfare standards – which will undermine and undercut Scotland’s farmers, crofters and food producers.

“Brexit has been an unmitigated disaster and it is our economy, businesses and people’s livelihoods that are being forced to pay a heavy price.

“Scotland is increasingly vulnerable under Westminster control. It’s clearer than ever that the only way to keep Scotland safe from the long-term damage of Brexit and Tory trade deals is to become an independent country.”

The UK Government said the deal, the first since Brexit that was not a rejigging or roll-over of an existing trade arrangement, would also be a stepping stone to membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade bloc.

The deal shoulds increase trade with Australia by 53% and boost the economy by £2.3bn, the Department for International Trade said.

Official estimates of the impact of a deal have previously suggested that in the long run, it would produce an increase of just 0.01% to 0.02% of UK GDP.

This is partly because Australia accounts for only around 1.7% of UK exports and 0.7% of imports and because tariffs on most UK-Australia trade are already low.

Labour shadow international trade secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds backed the deal but said it required very careful scrutiny.

He said: “Notable from the outset is that the Government ‘list of benefits’ contains no mention of climate targets or the impact of the removal of import tariffs on UK agriculture.”

Liberal Democrat rural affairs spokesman Tim Farron said: “This trade deal fails to protect our farmers in the long term.”

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said the deal posed a “threat to working people while contributing almost nothing to our economy”.

Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: “What people will want to know is whether this trade deal will stop beef from farms involved in destroying habitats for koalas and other endangered species from reaching our supermarket shelves and whether Boris Johnson has used his clout to confirm a commitment to the Paris goal of keeping the global temperature rise to within 1.5C.”

However business groups welcomed the new opportunities for exporters.

CBI president Lord Bilimoria said it “opens new frontiers” and is a “truly comprehensive and modern agreement that plays to Britain’s economic strengths and competitiveness”.

British Chambers of Commerce head of trade policy William Bain said: “There are opportunities for exporters in a new speedier customs process, zero tariffs on the vast majority of UK exports, improved market access on services, free flow of data and generous provisions on labour mobility for under-35s for up to three years.”

Stephen Phipson, the head of manufacturers’ organisation Make UK, said: “Achieving a new preferential trade arrangement with Australia is welcome for Britain’s manufacturers who will benefit from day one with tariff-free access on goods sold and witness improvements in business mobility between the two countries.”


 

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