UFU comment on UK-Australia trade deal developments

Friday, 21 May, 2021

UFU president Victor Chestnutt said, “It’s deeply concerning to have learnt of reports via the press, that government has agreed in principle to offer a 15-year transition zero-tariff, zero-quota trade deal with Australia. If this is correct, it could have a devastating impact on our NI agri-food industry and be the ruination of our beef and sheep farms regardless of whether unfettered access was offered now or in 15 years’ time. We need tariffs and quotas set at a level that will protect us, not for government to unlatch the doors and leave them wide open. It would damage the competitiveness of our UK market and our farming families would be left struggling, putting some out of business altogether.

“This deal with Australia will be the first of the UK’s new free trade agreements and if the government does not honour its commitment to ensure that our farmers would not be undermined by agreeing to deals that would create unfair competition in our markets from the get-go, it will be the beginning of a downward spiral for our farmers. With so much at stake, it’s utterly unacceptable that the establishment of the new statutory Trade and Agriculture Commission has not yet been progressed so that it can scrutinize the deal that is on the table.

“It was also reported that government agreed to offer safeguards to maintain high standards of local farming and food production. We need further clarification on these ‘safeguards’ immediately as they’re going to be critical to mitigating the impact of the trade deal on sensitive sectors like beef and sheep in particular.

“We have written to the Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis MP to highlight all of these concerns and raised them in a meeting with the Minister of State for Trade Policy, Greg Hands, as well as during recent meetings with conservative MPs and House of Lords Peers alongside the other UK farming unions. We urge the UK government once again, to remain committed to its negotiating objectives as trade discussions with Australia continue.”