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Trade Deal with Australia: British Food Standards

Volume 697: debated on Thursday 17 June 2021

What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for International Trade on maintaining British food standards in a future trade deal with Australia. (901407)

I have had regular discussions with the Secretary of State at the Department for International Trade and, indeed, other Cabinet colleagues on the issue of food standards in the context of our negotiations with Australia. The UK has a prohibition on the sale of beef treated with hormones, and the agreement recognises our right to regulate in this way.

The Secretary of State will be aware that environmental, animal welfare and farming groups have all expressed their concern about both the small print in the deal and the precedent that it sets. The Minister knows that trust is in very short supply, and that deals have a habit of unravelling, as we have seen very clearly in recent months.

Can the Minister give us a date by which the Trade and Agriculture Commission will be fully operational, and the date on which the analysis of this deal will be published?

The Secretary of State for International Trade will, I think, be giving a statement later. The Government have now published the key components of the agreement in principle, and some analysis of the impacts of this agreement has already been cited. Australia is a very important partner of ours, and it is important that we get a trade agreement with it. It is, of course, a smaller economy and the opportunities are therefore not as large as they would be with a larger economy, but nevertheless, Australia is an important ally and this is a good agreement between us.

I hardly need to explain to the Secretary of State the level of disbelief and anger that there is as the betrayal of British farming unfolds this week. The level of detail is unclear, but The Daily Telegraph helpfully reports a major win for the Secretary of State for International Trade—doubtless briefed by her. The key losers in this situation are British farmers. Given that we now know that there is going to be a huge increase in the amount of beef and lamb coming in from Australia—produced to lower standards at lower cost, disadvantaging our farmers—will the Secretary of State tell the House what he is going to do to help our farmers meet that challenge?

We secured some important mitigations to help the farming industry, including the fact that a tariff rate quota will stay in place for the first 10 years on both beef and sheep, and for the subsequent five years there will be a special agricultural safeguard that means that if volumes go above a certain trigger, tariffs immediately snap back in. We have put in place mitigations through the quota for the first 10 years and through that safeguard.