Many constituents contacted me with concerns about the impact of the 2021 UK-Australia trade deal on our environmental and food standards. While my Labour colleagues and I welcome the principle of a trade deal with Australia as one of our closest allies, and any further trade deals with comparable countries, these need to protect British jobs and industries, our climate standards, and our legal protections. As Parliamentarians, we must be able to scrutinise any trade deal and represent our constituents’ concerns to the government.
The trade deal was signed in December 2021 and in economic terms, it’s expected to cut prices of Australian products in British shops by little more than a pound a year per household and to add just 0.02%-0.08% to the size of the UK economy over the next 15 years by the government’s own admission.
Furthermore, despite the Government’s claim that tariff-free agricultural imports will be capped for 15 years, this deal will allow Australia’s farm corporations to increase their beef exports to several times the volume of what they currently export to the UK from year one before paying any tariffs. Our British famers have expressed deep worry about their products being undercut and I believe the government has ignored their calls.
In 2020, I took part in a Parliamentary debate on environmental protection standards on all future trade agreements. I strongly believe that this Government must protect food standards, the climate and the British farming and I will continue to speak on this topic. In October 2020, alongside Labour colleagues, I also voted for a series of amendments to the Agriculture Bill – a vital bill that will protect our food, environmental and animal welfare standards in any post-Brexit trade deal.
I have been clear that as our first post-Brexit bespoke trade deal, and a template for other deals to come, we should have had a proper, open debate about what’s in it, rather than rushing it through in secret. The Labour Party is committed to holding the government to account over its promises on the quality of future trade deals and to make sure that any deal is in the best interest of the UK.