UK Gov split on Australia trade deal that could hammer Welsh farmers
The UK Government is split on a potential trade deal with Australia that could hammer Welsh farmers.
A “ferocious” internal battle is going on between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of International trade over the terms of the post-Brexit agreement, amid fears it could boost Welsh and Scottish independence.
According to the Financial Times, people with knowledge of internal discussions ministers divided over whether to grant tariff-free access to Australian farmers, which would risk a fierce backlash from the UK farming industry.
It is feared that the likely impact of zero-tariff imports of Australian lamb and beef will land hardest in rural areas such as Welsh and Scottish hill farms.
Liz Truss, the International Trade Secretary, is reportedly facing stiff opposition from George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, and Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office Minister, who have warned of the political fallout from a zero-tariff deal.
A government official told the FT: “Liz argues that if you can’t get a good trade deal with Australia, who can you get one with?”
One person with knowledge of the internal discussions said: “There is an absolutely ferocious row going on in Whitehall over the Australia deal with real pressure to get it resolved by the end of this week. Gove and Eustice are on one side, Truss and [Lord David] Frost on the other.”
The UK Government estimates that a free trade agreement with Australia would be worth an additional 0.01-0.02 per cent of GDP over 15 years — or £200m-£500m more than 2018 levels.
One insider opposed to the deal said: “Basically we’re talking about signing off the slow death of British farming so Liz Truss can score a quick political point.”
Both camps admit they don’t which way Boris Johnson will jump on the issue.
“It’s the $100m question,” said one government official. Downing Street declined to comment.
Minette Batters, President of the National Farmers’ Union, has warned that British farmers could never compete with Australian farms, with their “massive feedlots and soulless ranches”, if they were granted zero-tariff access to the UK.
She wrote in the Mail on Sunday: “The government says it wants to ‘level up’ Britain. But this can never be achieved by throwing our family farms under the bus.”