Australian deal may cause countryside ‘car crash’ says Batters
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The International Trade Secretary has been locked in talks with her Australian counterparts over another lucrative trade deal for Brexit Britain. But a row has been triggered over the possibility of a free-trade, no quota agreement. Ms Truss is facing opposition to this from Environment Secretary George Eustice, who has warned of a domestic backlash from UK farmers if there are no limits to the deal.
He also fears British farmers will be undercut by a wave of meat imports from Australia that could flood the market under a free trade agreement.
In a further escalation of tensions, Times Radio’s Tom Newton Dunn claimed Mr Eustice has now come up with a plan to end the standoff which “conjures up the prospect of resignation”.
Mr Newton Dunn said: “Eustice, who wants to protect UK farmers from being under cut, will tell Liz Truss he will accept zero tariffs but not zero quotas.
“Instead, flashpoint Australian imports, such as beef and lamb, must have annual caps.”
Australia would then be forced to adhere to limits on beef or lamb or the UK will not agree a deal.
But now Britons have lashed out at UK negotiators, and have demanded Ms Truss pull the plug on a free trade deal with Australia.
One Express.co.uk reader said: “Go for it. Time we had a choice.”
A second person wrote lashed out at the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and raged: “All other countries know the UK is in a weak position regarding trade deals.
“Australia will sell us cheap beef and lamb, India and Nigeria will get visa free travels etc. Johnson has stuffed the UK.”
Another Express.co.uk reader commented: “Food is just as important as energy a country should strive for self sufficiency.”
Several other people launched a scathing attack against the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal negotiators.
One said: “We have gone from professionals negotiating trade agreements to this lot. Pathetic.”
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A second reader added: “If only we had some decent negotiators that had our interests at the number one slot!”
Despite the fears and warnings being issued from other ministers, Ms Truss has insisted British farmers “will not be undercut” by any future trade deal with Australia.
Several agricultural groups have also warned such an agreement would undercut farmers who would struggle to compete if zero-tariff trade on lamb and beef went ahead.
Speaking to MPs on the Commons International Trade Committee on Wednesday, Ms Truss said: “I have had discussions with the National Farmers’ Union, I’ve been very clear with them that of course, I’m always looking to make sure – as I have committed to – that British farmers will not be undercut by unfair practices from elsewhere.
“And we will make sure in all the deals we do that British farming thrives and I’m absolutely confident that will be achieved through the Australia deal.”
The International Trade Secretary also said negotiators are “currently in a sprint with a view to getting to agreement in principle by early June” on a possible trade deal with Australia.
She also insisted such an agreement would have “benefits for all nations and regions of the United Kingdom, and all industries, including the agriculture industry”.
During Prime Minister’s Questions earlier in the day, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford accused Mr Johnson of throwing farmers “under the Brexit bus”.
But Mr Johnson hit back: “I don’t think that he does justice to crofters, to farmers across the country and in Scotland as well because I think he grossly underestimates their ability to do great things with our free-trade deals, to export Scottish beef around the world.
“Why doesn’t he believe in what the people of Scotland can do?
“Why is he so frightened of free trade?
“I think there’s a massive opportunity for Scotland and for the whole of the UK and he should seize it and be proud of it.”
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