Despite the political back-slapping which followed the signing of the free trade deal with Australia, the UK Government has missed the opportunity to reach a genuinely innovative and world-class settlement which would have supported British farmers and set a high benchmark for future deals.
Welcoming the Trade and Agriculture Commission’s (TAC) report into the deal which was published this week, English NFU president Minette Batters said it confirmed the union’s fears that the UK Government had failed to set the precedent which would have incentivised trade in food produced to higher environmental and animal welfare standards.
“While it is reassuring that this deal will not result in a change in production standards here – for instance, imports of hormone-reared beef will still be banned – the report confirms that this FTA simply opens up UK agricultural markets for Australian produce, whether or not produced to the same standards that are legally required of UK farmers,” said Batters.
“This deal will pave the way for others to follow and I’m concerned about the cumulative impact of the government’s FTA programme, especially as its own impact assessments anticipate a negative economic impact on the UK.”
She added it was vital that government provided a clear programme of policies and investment to help UK farming get ready for the new, tougher trading environment and said the government also needed to work with farmers to develop a set of core environmental and animal welfare standards to safeguard future FTAs.