UK reaches free trade agreement with Australia

The UK and Australia have reached an agreement on international trade between the two countries – which could have a substantial negative impact on Irish beef and lamb exports to the UK.

The deal was reached between UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a meeting in 10 Downing Street, last night (June 14).

The agreement “eliminates tariffs on all UK goods and boosting jobs and businesses across the country”, the UK government said, in what is the “first major trade deal negotiated from scratch” since the UK left the EU.

A final Agreement in Principle will be published in the coming days, Downing Street said.

The UK government said the “new Free Trade Agreement means iconic British products like cars, Scotch whisky, biscuits and ceramics will be cheaper to sell into Australia”.

British farmers will be protected by a cap on tariff-free imports for 15 years, using tariff rate quotas and other safeguards. We are also supporting agricultural producers to increase their exports overseas, including to new markets in the Indo-Pacific.”

The news was confirmed by ministers from both the UK and Australian governments in recent hours, including UK Secretary for Trade Liz Truss.

The agreement, which is the result of several months of negotiations between the two sides, is believed to involve favourable conditions for lamb and beef imports from Australia.

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has called on MPs to “do all they can to fully scrutinise and have a say on the UK-Australia trade deal”, outlining “grave concerns” over the possibility of ending up with “a deal that’s catastrophic for animal welfare, the environment, our family farms and our food security”.

FUW president Glyn Roberts urged MPs to heed “warnings about the implications of a trade deal that sets the UK on a permanent legally binding course to open us up to food produced to lower environmental and welfare standards, and undermines our food security and the viability of our family farms”.

Last month, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) in the UK voiced concerns over a mooted tariff-free trade deal with Australia in relation to beef and lamb.

NFU president Minette Batters said at the time:

“We continue to maintain that a tariff free trade deal with Australia will jeopardise our own farming industry and will cause the demise of many, many beef and sheep farms throughout the UK. This is true whether tariffs are dropped immediately or in 15 years’ time.

“We remain of the view that it is wholly irresponsible for government to sign a trade deal with no tariffs or quotas on sensitive products and which therefore undermines our own domestic economy and businesses.”