British sheep farmers are being treated like the “sacrificial lamb” in the UK-Australia trade deal for the sake of cheap wine, warns the National Sheep Association (NSA).
The association’s chief executive, Phil Stocker, has accused the UK Government of dismissing its own impact assessment of the deal, conducted by the Department for International Trade, which found it will reallocate resources away from agriculture, forestry and fishing to the tune of around £94 million.
“NSA is bemused by the continued dismissal by the Prime Minister and some of his Ministers of the detrimental impact the Australia deal will have on UK farming,” added Mr Stocker.
“It is obvious, based on its own assessment, how this Government has truly committed the UK sheep industry to being the sacrificial lamb to enable cheaper Australian wine to be on UK supermarket shelves.”
He called for MPs to get a “meaningful vote” on the deal and for the views of the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) – a body tasked with providing expert scrutiny on new trade deals once they reach the signature stage – to be taken into account.
“The association presses for proper and urgent scrutiny of the deal by Parliament and TAC in order for the public to be given the full details of how the deal will allow imports of lamb produced to lower standards than those here in the UK,” added Mr Stocker.
In response, a spokesman from the Department for International Trade said: “Our landmark deal with Australia – projected to boost Scotland’s economy by £120m – is just one of many we’re doing around the world that will open up huge opportunities for UK farmers and food producers.
“Maintaining our high standards is a red line in all our trade negotiations, and this deal also contains safeguards to support the sheepmeat industry and wider farming community, including a gradual removal of tariffs over 15 years and a safety net that allows tariffs or restrictions to be reimposed if the industry faces serious harm.”
The spokesman said the impact assessment did not capture all the potential benefits of the deal and UK food and drink producers will benefit from new opportunities to sell their produce to Australia.