Nation Cymru | 18 May 2021
UK trade deal with Australia ‘must not harm Welsh farmers’, says Welsh Gov
A UK trade deal with Australia “must not disadvantage” Wales’ farmers, the Welsh Government has said.
The Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething and Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths were responding to reports that Australian farmers could be granted tariff-free access to the UK market.
They have warned that the post-Brexit agreement must not lower food standards and put the Welsh agriculture sector at a disadvantage, and that it should not “undermine” or domestic legislation.
According to the Financial Times “ferocious” internal battle is going on in Whitehall between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of International trade over the terms of the post-Brexit agreement.
People with knowledge of internal discussions says UK ministers are divided over whether to grant tariff-free access to Australian farmers, amid fears it could boost Welsh and Scottish independence, as well as spark a fierce backlash from the UK farming industry.
It is feared that the likely impact of zero-tariff imports of Australian lamb and beef will land hardest in rural areas such as Welsh and Scottish hill farms.
Liz Truss, the International Trade Secretary, is reportedly facing stiff opposition from George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, and Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office Minister, who have warned of the political fallout from a zero-tariff deal.
Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething: “Farmers and food producers play a crucial role in our society, economy and environment.
“We have been very clear with the UK Government that any new trade deals must not cause an un-level playing field, by giving food importers with lower standards an economic advantage in our market compared to our own producers.”
Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths said: “We are extremely proud of the high food safety standards we have here in Wales, including standards around animal health and welfare, traceability, environment and food safety.
“No trade agreement should ever undermine that or our domestic legislation and the Welsh Government has consistently made this point to the UK Government.”
One person with knowledge of the internal discussions within the UK Government told the FT: “There is an absolutely ferocious row going on in Whitehall over the Australia deal with real pressure to get it resolved by the end of this week. Gove and Eustice are on one side, Truss and [Lord David] Frost on the other.”
The UK Government estimates that a free trade agreement with Australia would be worth an additional 0.01-0.02 per cent of GDP over 15 years — or £200m-£500m more than 2018 levels.
One insider opposed to the deal said: “Basically we’re talking about signing off the slow death of British farming so Liz Truss can score a quick political point.”