The Guardian | 31 May 2023
UK’s post-Brexit trade deals with Australia and New Zealand kick in
by Joanna Partridge
The UK’s post-Brexit trade deals with Australia and New Zealand have come into force, a moment lauded by the government as “historic” despite critics arguing they give away “far too much for far too little”.
The trade agreements – the first of those negotiated after Britain’s EU exit to enter into force – come after George Eustice, who was the environment secretary when the UK-Australia trade pact was struck in December 2021, admitted it was “not actually a very good deal” for Britain.
The government’s own calculations estimate that the deal will have a negligible long-term contribution to the British economy, forecasting it will increase UK GDP by only 0.08%, or £2.3bn a year, by 2035.
This has prompted criticism in Britain that the deals were one-sided, and especially disadvantaged British farmers.
Eustice, an enthusiastic Brexiter, criticised the agreement last November for giving too many concessions to Australian and New Zealand farmers, telling the Commons: “Overall the truth of the matter is that the UK gave away far too much for far too little in return.”
The agreements – negotiated by Liz Truss during her time as trade secretary – are the first to take effect, after the UK, Australia and New Zealand completed their domestic ratification processes.
The move means that from Wednesday tariffs on all UK goods exports to Australia and New Zealand will be removed, access to these markets for services unlocked and red tape slashed for digital trade and work visas.
Special shipments of British goods such as signed Beano comics will be among the first to be sent under the new arrangements.
The business and trade secretary, Kemi Badenoch, called it a “historic moment”, adding: “Businesses up and down the country will now be able to reap the rewards of our status as an independent trading nation and seize new opportunities, driving economic growth, innovation and higher wages.”
The international trade minister, Nigel Huddleston, is marking the occasion on Wednesday with a tour of DHL’s southern distribution centre near Heathrow to see off two handpicked consignments of UK goods.
British goods from across the country, including Beano comics signed by the comic’s editor, John Anderson, Penderyn single malt Welsh whisky, Brighton Gin, the Cambridge Satchel Co bags and Fever-Tree mixers are among the items being sent from the government to the Australian and New Zealand trade ministers.
The parcels will also include an England cricket top signed by James Anderson and Emma Lamb, a Wales rugby shirt signed by the men’s team and a tennis racket from Gray’s of Cambridge.
Huddleston said: “Australia and New Zealand are two of our closest friends and like-minded partners and our trade deals secure favourable terms for British exporters, removing tariffs on all UK goods and slashing red tape.”
Ministers say that alongside the new trade deals, young Britons will also benefit from opportunities in Australia, thanks to the expansion of the shared youth mobility and working holiday maker visa schemes.
On 1 July 2023, the age limit for UK applicants going to Australia will go from 30 to 35 years old, and from 1 July 2024, Britons will be able to stay in Australia for up to three years without having to meet specified work requirements.
The founder and managing director of Brighton Gin, Kathy Caton, welcomed the deals coming into force and removing trade barriers. She said: “With a Brighton in every state in Australia, one of our goals is to see Brighton Gin being served in every one. Hopefully the free trade agreement gets us one step closer to that.”