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What does the Australian trade deal mean for the West Country farmer?

  • by JW

“As a nation we pride ourselves on expecting the highest level of food safety and animal welfare standards.”


Last week, Devon Live posted the announcement of a trade deal – with the promise that there would be other “safeguards” brought in to protect British farmers.

Details of UK-Australia trade agreement revealed by Downing Street – Devon Live


In today’s edition, Devon MP Anne Marie Morris is very enthusiastic:

It is fantastic that a trade deal with Australia has been reached, presenting an enormous opportunity for the UK… 

Crucially, British farmers will be protected by a cap on tariff-free imports for 15 years through the use of tariff rate quotas and further safeguards. The Trade and Agriculture Commission will provide independent scrutiny of animal welfare in the deal ahead of its ratification. Agricultural producers are also being supported to increase exports overseas including in the Indo-Pacific.

It is fantastic that a trade deal with Australia has been reached – Anne Marie Morris – Devon Live


However, not everyone in the West Country is so supportive.

An agricultural consultant from Cornwall said this soon after the G7 meeting:

I am particularly concerned promises made by the Government that would not allow our farmers to be effectively undercut, by lower standard food imports as part of wider trade negotiations, are nothing but hot air. The relative power of Liz Truss’ Department of International Trade and George Eustice’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) being worryingly clear for all to see…

I fully appreciate that we live in a world of global competition and trade and that to a certain extent this will hopefully lead to an improvement in the efficiency of UK agriculture and new export opportunities, but this is not just a case of the moaning farmer. As a nation we pride ourselves on expecting the highest level of food safety and animal welfare standards and going forward it surely cannot be acceptable for this issue to simply be exported!

UK’s trade deal with Australia shows promises to protect our farmers are nothing but hot air – Athwenna Irons – Cornwall Live


Lisa West at South West Farmer reports on concerns from the NFU:

Reaction from farmers to UK’s free trade deal with Australia | South West Farmer


But particularly damning is a piece written by sheep farmer James Rebanks:

I am not starry-eyed about rural Britain or the state of farming. My last book, English Pastoral, was about the mess we’re in and why. We seem unable to understand — or care enough about — creating food systems that reconcile farming with nature. There is, whether we want to hear it or not, a collapse in farmland biodiversity. Since more than 70% of Britain is farmed, that collapse is devastating. And yes, a lot of this happened under the EU’s frequently barmy Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)…

Post-Brexit, we had a choice. Would we ask British farmers to compete with the rest of the world on equal terms — or not? Competing on equal terms under free trade would mean we’d have to follow the methods of other countries — probably of the world’s most intensive farming landscapes.

But we wanted something better on our islands. We were told that Brexit could be “green”, with farmers protected and rewarded for working with nature, not against it. We were told repeatedly by the Government that it wouldn’t sign trade deals that would allow imports of food produced in systems with lower standards. We were told that allowing them was unfair and would undermine efforts here to do better. Our farmers, we were told, would be asked to do exceptional things — and supported, but not through the blunt EU tool of propping up farmer incomes…

Britain betrays its farmers again – UnHerd