Australia trade deal: Everything we know about post-Brexit agreement

The prime minister today hailed the ‘fantastic opportunities’ in the deal

Joe Middleton
Tuesday 15 June 2021 15:08
<p>Boris Johnson looks on as Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks at No10 on Tuesday</p>

Boris Johnson looks on as Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks at No10 on Tuesday

Boris Johnson today hailed a “new dawn” in the UK’s relationship with Australia after the terms of a new free trade deal was agreed.

The prime minister heralded the “fantastic opportunities” in the accord, which is forecast to grow the economy by 0.02 per cent over 15 years.

Mr Johnson and his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, agreed the central elements on the deal on Monday night, a statement released by No10 said.

Despite the prime minister’s positivity over the new deal there have been concerns raised by British farmers about food welfare standards and disquiet that they could be undercut by cut-price imports.

Mr Johnson said the trade agreement will adhere to the “strongest possible” animal welfare standards, while Mr Morrison insisted that Australian standards were “very high”.

What are the details of the deal?

Neither the UK nor Australia have released substantial detail on the deal yet and ministers have said the full text will be published in the “coming days”, which brings us no closer to a definitive timescale.

However, the little we do know is that Mr Johnson has offered Mr Morrison a zero-tariff, zero-quota trade pact. It will save British consumers £34m a year on Australian products.

It will also mean that British products such as cars, Scotch whisky and confectionary will be cheaper to sell to Australia.

Downing Street also confirmed a 15-year cap on tariff-free imports to the UK and other “safeguards” expected to be brought in to protect British farmers.

The Government has not given an up-to-date estimate on how much the UK economy will benefit from the deal. But, in its position paper ahead of negotiations, it said an agreement could increase British exports to Australia by £900m. UK trade with Australia was worth £18.5bn in 2019. By comparison, UK trade with the EU was worth some £668bn during the same year.

The same position paper also said a deal would see the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP) - a measure of economic growth - rise between 0.01 per cent and 0.02 per cent, and Australia‘s by between 0.01 per cent and 0.06 per cent.

The announcement also said Britons under the age of 35 will be able to travel and work in Australia more freely - although details remain unclear.

Are there any concerns about the free trade agreement?

In short, yes. British farmers have concerns that the deal will see them undercut by Australian rivals.

In particular, there are fears that smaller beef and lamb producers in Scotland and Wales will be unable to compete with the typically much larger Australian farms.

The Scottish Government has repeatedly raised concerns over the deal, which First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said will be a “betrayal” of Scottish farmers if import standards do not match those on domestic production.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) have also raised concerns about provisions on animal welfare and the environment.

NFU president Minette Batters said in a statement today: “We will need to know more about any provisions on animal welfare and the environment to ensure our high standards of production are not undermined by the terms of this deal.

“The ultimate test of this trade deal will be whether it contributes to moving farming across the world onto a more sustainable footing, or whether it instead undermines UK farming and merely exports the environmental and animal welfare impact of the food we eat.”

What have the government said?

Speaking at Downing Street following the announcement, Mr Johnson told reporters: “Now, thanks to this deal, we hope there will be even more trade between the UK and Australia.

“The idea is that we will be able to do even more because we are taking tariffs off, so for Northern Ireland, Northern Irish machine tools, this will be good news.

“It will be good news for British car manufacturers, it will be good news for British services, for British financial services and it will be good news for the agricultural sector on both sides.

“Here, we had to negotiate very hard and I want everybody to understand that this is a sensitive sector for both sides and we’ve got a deal that runs over 15 years and contains the strongest possible provisions for animal welfare.”

Additional reporting by PA

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