United Kingdom

Farming leaders fear Liz Truss trade deal will flood Britain with poor-quality meat

Farming leaders fear that International Trade Secretary Liz Truss is on the brink of signing a free trade deal with Australia which could see cheap beef flooding the UK market.

Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union, says her members fear that Ms Truss's negotiators have agreed to tariff-free access to the UK market in their haste to secure a deal before next month's G7 summit in Cornwall.

But Ms Truss's allies have dismissed the concerns, saying that British farmers 'have nothing to fear' from an Australian deal. 

Farming leaders fear that International Trade Secretary Liz Truss is on the brink of signing a free trade deal with Australia which could see cheap beef flooding the UK market

It is understood that Australian negotiators have requested a five-year transition period, after which the current restrictions and tariffs on their goods would be lifted – potentially exposing British farmers to cheaper rival products.

However, Government sources indicated that tariffs were unlikely to be lifted for at least a decade.

In an article for The Mail on Sunday, below, Ms Batters says she is 'increasingly concerned' about the direction of trade talks with Australia, as well as negotiations with New Zealand and the US.

Minette Batters (above), president of the National Farmers Union, says her members fear that Ms Truss's negotiators have agreed to tariff-free access to the UK market in their haste to secure a deal before next month's G7 summit in Cornwall

'It's clear that negotiators from Australia and New Zealand are sticking firm to their hardline demands for the complete removal of tariffs on all their exports to the UK,' writes Ms Batters.

She says this would make it 'all but impossible' for British family farms 'to compete with vast volumes of imports from the southern hemisphere produced in a very different manner'.

Ms Batters adds: 'Surely no one can want our land to become like the Australian Outback or the American dust bowl.'

But a source at the Department for International Trade played down NFU fears, saying 'Any agreement we do sign will have a whole host of protections. We are only talking about low volume, high quality meat coming in from Australia. 

'And Aussie beef accounts for just one per cent of our current beef imports... compared to the EU which accounts for more than 90 per cent.'

The source added: 'The Australia deal is a gateway to the Asia-Pacific free trade area. If the UK joins, it will open up new opportunities for British farmers.'

It is understood that Australian negotiators have requested a five-year transition period, after which the current restrictions and tariffs on their goods would be lifted – potentially exposing British farmers to cheaper rival products

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