Farmers’ Union of Wales members from Caernarfonshire and Denbighshire have outlined their concerns and objections to the free trade agreement with Australia at a recent meeting with Aberconwy MP Robin Millar.
Speaking after the meeting, which was hosted by FUW President Glyn Roberts at his home farm Dylasau Uchaf, near Betws y Coed, FUW Caernarfonshire County Executive Committee Member Dafydd Gwyndaf said: “We made it very clear in our meeting with Robin Millar MP that trade deals lock the current and future governments into them, and as such need time and thorough scrutiny.
“Under no circumstances should they be rushed, but that is what is happening here, on top of which the UK Parliament will not be able to scrutinise and have a final say on a deal in the way other democratic nations do.”
Mr Gwyndaf said the FUW had therefore asked him to do all he can to oppose such a trade agreement and ensure detailed scrutiny takes place.
“The extreme problems we are seeing in Northern Ireland because of the protocol show what happens when politicians do not listen to stark warnings and rush things through in order to meet a self imposed timetable, but that’s exactly what’s happening with regard to the Australia deal.
“A repeat in terms of a trade deal with Australia would be disastrous because it would be almost impossible to undo unless there is something like a break clause,” he added.
The EU’s previous agreement with Australia allowed 7,150 tonnes of beef and 19,186 tonnes of lamb to be imported into EU countries, but following Brexit the quota was split, allowing Australia to import 3,761 of beef and 13,335 tonnes of lamb into the UK.
“Claims that a liberal deal with Australia should not be feared since current import volumes are extremely low and unlikely to increase are clearly nonsense. If such arguments had any merit, then maintaining the current quota would not be controversial and would not be opposed by Australia,” added Mr Gwyndaf.
Australian politicians and industry representatives, Mr Gwyndaf told the MP, have been candid in expressing their view that the UK is a major target for the expansion of sales of red meat in particular.
FUW Denbighshire County Executive Committee Member Elwy Williams added: “As it stands - we in Wales have no ability under existing legislation to reduce our standards to the extent that they come close to meeting the competitive advantage that Australian imports would enjoy. Doing so to any extent like that would equate to a ‘race to the bottom’ that would add to friction for our exports to our main markets in Europe.”
Beca Glyn, Eryri YFC Chair, further highlighted that differences between UK and Welsh rules and standards are foremost amongst an array of concerns regarding any deal that allows an increase in food imports from Australia and other such countries, whether in the near or distant future. “It is an insult to our industry that we are going to have to compete with imports produced in ways which are legal in Australia but would put a Welsh farmer in court,” stated Beca Glyn.
Other concerns highlighted in the meeting include differences between employment regulations and standards, scale, land availability and taxation regimes.