The UK has signed a free trade agreement with Australia, finalising the chapters of the deal which was agreed in principle back in June.

The final deal was signed in a virtual ceremony by International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan yesterday (December 17) and will now be laid in Parliament for a period of scrutiny.

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

The deal – which is expected to unlock £10.4 billion of additional trade – is “tailored to the UK economy” the government said.

It has also included measures to ‘safeguard’ British farmers: A Tariff Rate Quota, lasting up to 10 years; a product-specific safeguard for beef and sheepmeat imports from year 11 to year 15; and a general bilateral safeguard mechanism, which can take the form of an increase in tariffs or a suspension of further tariff liberalisation for up to four years, and can be reapplied more than once on the same product, if necessary.

“This agreement is tailored to the UK’s strengths, and delivers for businesses, families, and consumers in every part of the UK – helping us to level up,” said Secretary Trevelyan.

However, this sentiment is not shared by all.

“As we feared following the agreement in principle, there appears to be extremely little in this deal to benefit British farmers,” said Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Unions (NFU) .

“We will analyse the detail in full but on the face of it, this is a one-sided deal,” she said.

“When it comes to agriculture, the Australians have achieved all they have asked for and British farmers are left wondering what has been secured for them.”

According to the Australian government, its farmers will have “improved access to more than 65 million UK consumers”.

“The government needs to level with farmers about the commercial reality of this and ditch the soundbites that lost any meaning a long time ago. It needs to set out a detailed agri-food export strategy, with complementary policies that will enable UK farmers to compete and adjust.

“We have seen some progress as the government begins to set out its export strategy, but much, much more is needed and implementing our three-point plan for getting farming ‘match-ready’ would be a good start.

I hope that MPs will now take a good, hard look at this deal to see if it really does match up to the government’s rhetoric to support our farmers’ businesses and safeguard our high animal welfare and environmental standards.

“I fear they will be disappointed.”