The UK government is currently, in its own words, “sprinting” to secure a trade deal with Australia, which is code for “we’ve screwed ourselves big time by cutting ourselves off from full EU market access, we promised and we can’t deliver and now we’ll take any trade deal that will allow the daily mail to put some kind of positive slant on the 10% contraction on the UK economy.
However they try to whitewash it, the EU is the world’s second-largest economy and still, by far, the UK’s biggest trading partner. In 2019, the UK’s exports to the EU were worth £294 billion and accounted for 43% of all of our outward trade. Since leaving the EU, that figure has dipped, massively.
With the announcement of the broad terms of a UK-Australia trade deal having been agreed, it has become clear that Australia smelled blood in the air, the UK having no real leverage as a population of 64million, compared to the combined buying power of the EU and the second-largest economy in the world,
The National Farmers’ Union is now warning of dire consequences if the trade deal goes ahead. There’s much to decipher, but the primary issues with the deal are Australias agricultural practices like:
- Growth-promoting hormones in beef cattle
- Ractopamine, a growth-promoting hormone in pigs
- Neonicotinoids – which cause harm to bees – used on rape seed crops
- Insecticides Dimethoate and Fipronil
- Chlorinated chicken
Then there are animal welfare standards, where the difference is even starker. The Animal Protection Index exists to keep track of each country’s record on animal welfare. The UK is currently rated ‘B’ overall, and is near the top of the international league table. Australia, on the other hand, is rated ‘D’, and gets an even worse grade (an ‘E’) when it comes to protecting animals used in farming. On nine out of ten indicators, the UK has substantially better animal welfare protections than Australia.
There are four big problems with having open, tariff-free access with an agricultural market like Australia:
- Ethically: we will be consuming produce which involves greater suffering
- Environmentally: we will be consuming produce which harms the environment more, and which has been shipped or flown here from the other side of the world, creating carbon emissions
- For UK farmers and rural communities, especially in Scotland and Wales: this trade deal could undercut and ruin them
- Deregulation: in the long run, if the government wants UK farmers to be able to compete with Australian (or American, or Brazilian) agriculture it will want to bring our standards down to their level – and that could be permanent
The long story short, what we feared would happen with the USA getting their claws into the UK, is actually happening with australia. Scottish Farmers are going to face a flood of cheap meat, which is so cheap because the controls on quality are so substandard.