NI Protocol triggers worry over 'rushed' Australia trade deal

Farmers have used the NI Protocol issue as an example for the need for more scrutiny when sealing trade deals
Farmers have used the NI Protocol issue as an example for the need for more scrutiny when sealing trade deals

Talks over the Northern Ireland Protocol has highlighted the need for careful scrutiny of the Australia trade deal, the Farmers' Union of Wales has warned.

Emergency UK-EU talks on overcoming problems caused by the Protocol has highlighted the 'dangers' of the UK entering a trade deal with Australia 'without careful scrutiny'.

Brexit minister David Frost and his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic met in London this week to discuss issues facing exports to NI as a result of rules agreed by the UK and EU in the Protocol.

The Protocol has led to shortages of certain products in the province and caused an increase in sectarian tensions, leading the government to threaten to further ignore the rules.

In response, the EU is threatening court action and the imposition of tariffs if the UK does not meet the obligations set out in the international treaty.

The Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) warned there was a 'direct parallel' with the deadline the UK had set itself for agreeing a trade deal with Australia.

“There are growing tensions politically between the EU and UK all because of an international agreement the UK negotiated and signed while desperate to meet a self-imposed tight deadline for leaving the EU," said Gareth Parry, FUW policy communications officer.

“The problems are exactly what we and others warned of, and now, within months of the protocol coming into force, the government has realised how bad the implications are and is having emergency meetings with the EU to try and solve the problem."

He said that the farming industry did not want to see the same thing happening with a trade deal with Australia because there was 'a rush to be seen to get things done'.

With the government’s own figures estimating the trade benefits of a deal with Australia to be worth just 0.01-0.02% of UK GDP over a 15 year period, Mr Parry said it was hardly as if the UK would lose out financially if it took time to get things right.

He added: “The implications of a rushed deal with Australia could last for generations as renegotiating or breaking trade deals that turn out to be damaging has major implications under international law.

“The FUW has been in meetings with Ministers and MPs to discuss our concerns on almost a daily basis in recent weeks.

"We have made it clear that we are supportive of trade deals that open up opportunities but we need to do all we can to avoid a bad deal."