Trade backers scramble to soothe cranky British farmers
Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan has reassured his farmers efforts remain on foot to seal a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United Kingdom, after rumblings within Great Britain against the proposal.
Minister Tehan says he is confident he can finalise the agreement in the next six weeks as both nations sprint to the finish line.
However, the deal has caused consternation within Boris Johnson's Conservative government and British farmers have accused Australia of not playing by the rules.
They claim Australian meat imports do not meet UK standards, and warn the deal will create an uneven playing field.
Mr Tehan said Australia wanted to offer British consumers the option of high-quality Australian goods over other imports, stating:
"I had two days sitting down with (UK trade secretary) Liz Truss on my recent visit to the UK and we are now meeting every week in a sprint to have an in-principle agreement by the end of June.”
Australia's National Farmers Federation (NFF) has also offered its support for a FTA between Australia and the UK.
NFF President Fiona Simson said in a statement:
“The NFF values the close relationship we have with our counterparts in the UK National Farmers Union.
“The NFF was warmly welcomed to the UK in 2019 by NFU President Minette Batters and despite the distance and geographical differences our farmers share many of the same issues and challenges as our UK peers.”
“The NFF continues to support Trade Minister Tehan and the Australian Government in the collaborative and productive negotiations with their UK counterparts as they strive towards securing a free trade agreement that is to the overall benefit of both parties.”
Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) Westminster leader, Ian Blackford urged the Prime Minister to reject the proposed deal:
“This deal would be the final nail in the coffin for many Scottish crofters and farmers, it will end a way of life that has endured for generations, Prime Minister.
“I know that many of the Prime Minister’s Tory colleagues privately agree with me and want him to pull back from this deal.
PM Boris Johnson responded:
“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.
“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.”