British-Australian trade deal back on track
The UK's International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss, says British farmers have nothing to fear from a free trade deal with Australia, saying on the weekend:
“(They have an) awful lot to gain.”
"I'm absolutely confident the deal we strike will enable our farmers to compete successfully."
Boris Johnson's government is hoping to secure an in-principle agreement on its first trade deal to be negotiated from scratch since leaving the EU.
However, UK ministers face a backlash from farmers who fear the zero tariffs, zero quotas deal that Australia is pursuing would see them undercut by Australian rivals.
In particular, there are fears that smaller beef and lamb producers in Scotland and Wales will be unable to compete with the typically much larger Australian farms.
Truss, however, said that a deal with Australia was a first step towards joining the wider Trans-Pacific Partnership, unlocking the expanding Asia markets for British producers.
"British farmers have absolutely nothing to fear from this deal at all.
"In fact, we've got an awful lot to gain, particularly from the wider opportunities in the Asia Pacific area.
"That's where demand for beef and lamb is expected to rise significantly over the next 10 years and we are gaining more access to those markets.
"This is where the big opportunities lie."
Officials have stressed any changes to the tariff regime would be phased in over a period of up to 15 years, giving farmers time to adapt to the new trading conditions.
UK farmers have feared they could be wiped out if there is complete trade liberalisation.
The deadlock in government was broken at a meeting last week of senior officials when Prime Minister Boris Johnson came down in favour of a deal.
There has been a strong reaction online, with some vocal Britons expressing concern that cattle and trade from Australian farms will compete unfairly with the local product.
In a response on Twitter, Victorian Shadow Minister for Industry, Tim Smith accused elements of the British press of scaremongering over the comparative scale of farms and the extent of Australian feedlots:
“Over 95% farms in Australia are family farms.
“You have feedlots in the UK as well.”