Australia trade deal to cause £94m blow to British farmers and fishermen

The Liberal Democrats have warned that farmers are being “sold down the river” by the Conservatives, after it emerged the government’s own impact assessment found the Australia deal will cause a £94m hit to the farming and fishing industries.

The Department for International Trade’s impact assessment of the agreement, published alongside the final text of the trade deal on 17 December 2021, refers to “a reallocation of resources away from agriculture, forestry and fishing” of £94 million. There is also an expected £225 million hit to the semi-processed food sector, such as tinned foods. The report also warns of “adjustment costs for affected sectors, businesses and employees” as well as the loss of jobs.

The impact assessment refers to Australia as a “large, competitive producer of agricultural products”, making clear the “potential for the deal to result in lower output for some agricultural sectors [in the UK] as a result”. It goes on to warn that the sector is “expected…to contract”, compared to if the deal had not been struck.

The Liberal Democrats are demanding that MPs are given a vote on the Australia deal so they can stand up for the interests of British farmers. It comes following the party’s stunning by-election win in North Shropshire where concerns over the government’s new trade deals on local farmers were a major issue.

Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Environment and Rural Affairs, Tim Farron MP, commented: “This impact assessment proves what so many feared. Buried in the small print is a £100 million hit to our farming and fishing sectors that will hit rural communities hardest.

Tim Farron

“Boris Johnson has sold farmers down the river to make a quick buck in a misguided trade deal with Australia.

“Now the reality of what’s on the table is clear, it’s vital that Parliament is given a vote on the deal.

“Last week’s political earthquake in North Shropshire shows that Boris Johnson’s Conservatives can’t afford to take farmers for granted any longer.”

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