Boris Johnson ‘signs off’ on offer of zero-tariff trade deal to Australia
Boris Johnson has signed off on an offer of a zero-tariff and zero-quota trade deal to Australia, it has been reported.
He has given his blessing to Trade Secretary Liz Truss to propose a 15 year transition, despite fears the move will devastate Welsh farming because of an influx of cheaper Australian beef and lamb.
The proposed timeframe was agreed by the inner-Cabinet committee in charge of talks, according to The Sun, with ministerial sources confident an agreement is now in sight.
Australia and the UK could sign the new agreement when their Prime Minister Scott Morrison jets to Cornwall next month for the G7 summit.
There have been reports of a “fierce” internal battle is going on in Whitehall between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of International trade over the terms of the post-Brexit agreement, amid fears it would spark a backlash from farmers.
But supporters of the deal insist food and wine will get cheaper in British supermarkets when import levies are scrapped.
‘Welsh speaking heartlands’
First Minister Mark Drakeford has warned that a switch to zero-tariffs and zero-quotas would “impact” Welsh speaking heartlands.
The Welsh Government has said that the post-Brexit agreement must not lower food standards and put the Welsh agriculture sector at a disadvantage, and that it should not “undermine” or domestic legislation.
Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams said: “Granting open access to cheap Australian lamb and beef would present a historic existential threat for Welsh farmers and the communities they support. The Prime Minister has broken his promise to our farmers.
“A free trade deal with Australia could only add a mere 0.01% to GDP over 15 years but could devastate the Welsh farming industry for generations. No government that claims to act in the interests of Welsh farmers could ever sign such a deal.
“By refusing to rule out tariff free access for Australian agricultural produce, the Prime Minister is again showing his willingness to sacrifice Welsh agriculture for cheap political gain.”
Declining to comment on the details of the meeting, last night No10 told The Sun that Boris Johnson “wants to maximise the massive opportunities presented by post-Brexit trade deals.”
The PM’s spokesperson insisted that any agreement would include protections for the agriculture industry and will undercut UK farmers, adding: “We want a deal that is good for the British public and any agreement would have protection for the agriculture industry.”