The National Sheep Association (NSA) has said it is “astonished” by the government’s dismissal of the “detrimental impact” the recently signed UK-Australia free trade deal will have on UK farms.

“NSA is bemused by the continued dismissal by the Prime Minister and some of his Ministers of the detrimental impact the Australia deal will have on UK Farming,” said NSA chief executive Phil Stocker.

The association is pressing for an “urgent scrutiny” of the deal by parliament and the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TCA).

“The association presses for proper and urgent scrutiny of the deal by Parliament and TAC in order for the public to be given the full details of how the deal will allow imports of lamb produced to lower standards than those here in the UK,” Stocker continued.

NSA insists that it is essential MPs get a meaningful vote on this deal and that the views of the TAC are properly recognised.

“This will be a test case for democracy in relation to trade deals – crucial because they will be for the long term.

“The next stage of this process cannot be a rubber-stamping exercise otherwise the Government’s support from rural constituencies will fall further.”

UK-Australia deal

The final version of the free trade deal between the UK and Australia was signed in a virtual ceremony by International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan on December 17.

It is now due to be be laid in Parliament for a period of scrutiny.

Once approved by both parliaments, businesses will be able to trade under its terms.

According to the Australian government, as a result of this deal, its farmers will have “improved access to more than 65 million UK consumers” – and many have expressed worry that the deal is ‘one-sided’, in favour of Australia.

The deal does however, includes measures to ‘safeguard’ British farmers, and Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan has also written to the TAC seeking its advice on the application of some measures.