Brexit triumph as Australia-UK FTA likely to be ‘finalised in coming weeks’
Brexit: David McCredie discusses UK trade deal with Australia
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed British farmers have a “massive opportunity” from post-Brexit trade deals after a major row over the terms of an agreement with Australia has engulfed his Cabinet. Mr Johnson hit back at criticism from the SNP’s Ian Blackford over the prospect of handing Australian farmers zero-tariff access for lamb and beef, insisting that he “greatly underestimates” the benefits of free trade. Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson said that the UK had grown “successful and prosperous” on the back of exporting products around the world, telling MPs: “Our food exports are second to none. He should be proud of that.”
The comments came ahead of a crunch meeting, with senior ministers deeply divided about the potential impact of the deal on the British farming industry.
George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, is fighting to extend a transition period – during which tariffs would gradually reduce to zero – from 10 to 15 years in order to shield British farmers and give them more time to adjust.
However, allies of Liz Truss, the International Trade Secretary, believe that a failure to agree to terms could scupper future deals with the US and other major economies, in turn squandering the opportunities of Brexit.
Ms Truss is backed by Lord Frost, the former Brexit negotiator and minister in charge of EU relations, as well as Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, who warned that a failure to strike an agreement with Australia would make other deals “very challenging.”
Many expect the row to continue for weeks, but in a recent report, David Collins, a Professor of International Economic Law at City, University of London, claimed the FTA could be finalised much sooner.
He explained: “With agricultural tariffs emerging as the most problematic aspect, there is plenty of common ground between the two countries, as well as a history of good will.
“As long as a globally-minded UK government is prepared to stand up to the farming lobby, it is quite likely the Australia-UK FTA can be finalised in the coming weeks.”
Professor Collins insisted the deal could provide considerable gains for businesses and consumers and hopefully spur a post-pandemic recovery in both countries.
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Australian Liberal Party Senator Eric Abetz shed light on the numerous opportunities a trade deal between Britain and Australia will bring in the near future.
In particular, the Senator singled out the sectors he believes will flourish.
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He said: “In principle, the more free trade there is, the cheaper commodities for the people in both countries will be.
“There will be greater opportunities for employment as well.
“And look, our agriculture production will be cheaper than the one in Britain, which means the UK will benefit from cheaper food.”
Senator Abetz noted: “We have just got rid of most tariffs in relation to motor vehicles.
“That might also be an opportunity for UK production…”
According to the Senator, the FTA will also mean easier investment in both countries and with each other.
He added: “Australia is always on the lookout for foreign investment.
“We need it. We had it from day one, and from the UK, which continues to be a very important investor in this country.
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“The easier we can make that, the better
“We are countries who trust each other, we have the rule of law and the same legal system.”
When asked whether the deal will be struck before the end of 2021, Senator Abetz said: “I would like to think we could do that.
“Now that the UK has been able to throw off the shackles of EU restrictions, it should take advantage of the freedom it has.
“I hope it will be achieved quickly.”
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