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  • Rikki Lambert

Cor, blimey! - British Opposition MPs rail against Aussie trade deal

Claims from the UK Opposition that the new UK-Australia trade deal is a "betrayal of British farming" have been dismissed by Trade Secretary Liz Truss.

Britain's Trade Secretary Liz Truss has hit back at Opposition suggestions that the newly minted trade deal between the UK and Australia breaks promises made to the people and British farmers. 

The minister insists that the agreement is "truly historic" and "shows that global Britain is a force for free and fair trade around the world".


Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his British counterpart Boris Johnson announced the agreement on Tuesday despite concerns from British farmers they could be undercut by cheaper imports.

Ms Truss said in the House of Commons on Thursday:

"I don't buy this defeatist narrative that British agriculture can't compete.
"We have a high quality, high value product which people want to buy, particularly in the growing middle classes of Asia."

She also told MPs they can "rest assured that this deal upholds our world-class standards from food safety to animal welfare, to the environment", alongside Britain's "great friend and ally Australia". 

"Do we want to be a country that embraces opportunity, looks to the future, believes its industries can compete and that its product is just what the world wants," she said. 
"Or do we accept the narrative some peddle that we need to stay hiding beyond the same protectionist walls that we had in the EU because we can't possibly compete and succeed?".

UK Labour shadow trade secretary Emily Thornberry hit back at Ms Truss' claims:

"The Secretary of State said last October that she would not sign a trade deal which would allow British farmers to be undercut by cheap imports produced using practices that are allowed in other countries but banned in the UK."

After listing measures including "branding cattle with hot irons" and "routinely transporting livestock for 48 hours without rest, food or water", Ms Thornberry added:

"And yet under the deal that she has signed, the meat from farms that use those practices will come into our country tariff free, undermining British standards, undercutting British farmers and breaking the promises made to the British people".

Ms Truss defended Australia's animal welfare record as 'five out of five', rebutting Ms Thornberry's attacks on Australian livestock farming:

"In many cases, Mr Speaker, Australian animal welfare standards are higher than they are in the EU.
"Not once, Mr Speaker, did the honourable Lady complain about the zero tariff, zero quota deal from the EU, not once has she talked about animal welfare standards in the EU, apart from claiming that she likes Danish pork."

Ms Thornberry told Parliament she wanted the government to bring the deal to the parliament for a binding vote, which UK Labour would reject.

Earlier in the day, shadow environment minister Daniel Zeichner described the Australia trade deal as a "betrayal of British farming". 

Meanwhile, Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, says the deal should be subject to a vote in the House of Commons and Holyrood.

Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly raised concerns over the trade agreement, which she is concerned will hurt Scottish farmers and food producers, saying:

"I would suggest it should be put to a vote ... so that we can represent the interests of the farming community across Scotland.
"I am deeply concerned about the implications of this trade deal and future trade deals on our farming sector in Scotland."


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