UK-Australia deal: No mention of standards, NFU says

NFU president Minette Batters says more information is needed on how UK farming standards will be protected
NFU president Minette Batters says more information is needed on how UK farming standards will be protected

The NFU says it is 'concerned' that the newly announced UK-Australia trade deal contained no mention of animal welfare and environmental standards.

The UK and Australia have reached a trade agreement which includes a 15-year cap on tariff-free imports.

Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison agreed the main elements of the free trade agreement on Monday evening (14 June).

It marks the first major trade deal negotiated by the United Kingdom since it left the European Union.

But the NFU has been vocal about its concerns over the potential impact of future post-Brexit trade deals.

The union noted that the announcement made no mention of animal welfare and environmental standards, adding that 'details remain very thin on the ground.'

President Minette Batters said: "While the government has previously been keen to highlight how our Free Trade Agreements will uphold our high standards of food production, there has always been a question mark over how this can be achieved while opening up our markets to food produced to different standards.

"We will need to know more about any provisions on animal welfare and the environment to ensure our high standards of production are not undermined by the terms of this deal."

She added: “The ultimate test of this trade deal will be whether it contributes to moving farming across the world onto a more sustainable footing, or whether it instead undermines UK farming and merely exports the environmental and animal welfare impact of the food we eat."

The NFU said it was 'critical' that the government engaged with industry on the details of the deal 'as soon as possible', and that parliament was also involved.

The union added that this meant providing both Houses with the details 'well in advance of ratification, alongside a proper impact assessment'.

The Trade and Agriculture Commission is also set to have a vital role to play in assessing these aspects of the deal in the near future.

Mrs Batters said: “This trade deal... will, I hope, provide UK farmers with opportunities to export more great British food abroad, although we should be realistic about the extent of those prospects with large net-exporters such as Australia.

"We should also be clear about the likelihood that these deals will mean a significant increase in competition in our domestic agricultural markets."