UK Government fears Australia deal could boost Welsh independence as farmers express ‘grave concerns’
There are fears within the UK Government that the UK-Australia trade deal could boost Welsh independence, as a farming union in Wales expressed “grave concerns” about the agreement.
Almost all imports of lamb and beef from Australia will become tariff-free immediately under the new trade deal agreed between the UK Government and Australia today.
It has been reported in the Evening Standard that the deal caused a split in the Cabinet appeared between International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Environment Secretary George Eustice, who has concerns about the impact on farmers.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove also harbours fears that the agreement could fuel demands for Scottish and Welsh independence, according to the newspaper.
Speaking today, FUW President Glyn Roberts said that his members had “grave concerns” that the deal could be “catastrophic” for animal welfare, the environment, family farms and food security – and “that it will be set in stone”.
“We have made it clear during our meetings and in correspondence with all Welsh MPs that we are not opposed to a UK-Australia deal, but we are opposed to a damaging deal that paves the way for further deals that add to that damage,” he said.
Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP, said that the deal could “undermine the long-term viability of our farming sector”.
She said that they are concerned that Australian farming operates on a scale that Welsh farmers cannot compete with, using methods that would not comply with the high environmental and animal welfare standards of production in the UK.
“Despite Welsh beef and lamb being among the most sustainable in the world, the UK Government has fast tracked a deal that will see produce reared to much lower environmental standards flown or shipped half-way across the world into our markets,” she said.
“This is fundamentally at odds with Boris Johnson’s own alleged aim of leading the world on climate action.
“Worse still, this deal sets a dangerous precedent for the future. By surrendering to Australia’s conditions, the UK Government has opened the door to giant industrial meat producers such as Brazil and the USA expecting similarly favourable conditions.”
‘Build back better’
The Welsh Conservatives however called for politicians in Wales to stop “complaining and cowering”.
Party leader Andrew RT Davies said that “high standards and strong environmental protections should be the cornerstone to any agreement, and I’m pleased to see such commitments from the Prime Minister”.
“Farmers across Wales and the United Kingdom will be protected by a cap on tariff-free imports for 15 years, using tariff rate quotas and other safeguards, whilst also supporting agricultural producers to increase their exports overseas, including to new markets in the Indo-Pacific.
“It’s vital Labour ministers in Cardiff Bay now ensures Wales is at the front of the queue to capitalise on the numerous opportunities created for Welsh businesses by these new trade deals, which will allow us to build back better after the pandemic.”