The UK government has denied that it is trying to renegotiate certain aspects of its new trade deal with Australia.
Speaking at Westminster on Wednesday, Conservative MP Anthony Mangnall suggested that the government was attempting to “backtrack” on how tariffs will be applied to meat imports during the trade deal’s transition period.
“We are now quibbling whether it is carcase weight or the [weight of the] product. Defra didn’t get its way the first time and is now rearing its head,” he suggested.
In response, International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said her negotiators were in the process of finalising the legal text of the Australian trade deal, after an “agreement in principle” was reached in June 2021.
“No, we are not rowing back on anything,” she maintained.
During her meeting with MPs, most of the discussion surrounded concerns about the UK giving away tariff free access for beef and lamb under trade deals with Australia and New Zealand (NZ).
No negative impact
Trevelyan maintained that the new trade deals would not have a negative impact on local farmers as product from Australia and NZ is likely to displace EU imports in the UK market.
“We import just over 300,000 tonnes of beef at the moment, of which 98% comes from the EU and 78% of that is from Ireland.
“What we are looking at here is a potential displacement issue, but we will also be building in a very clear framework of safeguards [for UK farmers],” she said.
The Conservative MP also played down concerns that there would be a sharp rise in meat imports into the UK by suggesting that Australia and NZ would remain focused on supplying markets in Asia.
“They have a need for greater quantities of protein due to fast growing populations and rising middle classes. It means there will be a continuing growing market for NZ, Australian, and indeed our farmers to make use of in the years ahead,” Trevelyan said.