Talks over Northern Ireland Protocol highlight need for careful scrutiny of Australia deal, says FUW

The Farmers’ Union of Wales says the emergency UK-EU talks being held to try and overcome problems caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol highlight the dangers of the UK entering a trade deal with Australia without careful scrutiny.

UK Brexit minister David Frost and his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic are meeting in London today (9th June) to discuss the problems facing exports to Northern Ireland as a result of the rules agreed by the UK and EU in the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The protocol has led to shortages of certain products in the province and caused an increase in sectarian tensions, leading the UK government to threaten to further ignore the rules. In response, the EU is threatening court action and the imposition of tariffs if the UK does not meet the obligations set out in the international treaty.

FUW Policy Communications Officer Gareth Parry said: “There are growing tensions politically between the EU and UK, and there are growing tensions on the street, all because of an international agreement the UK negotiated and signed while desperate to meet a self-imposed tight deadline for leaving the EU.

“The problems are exactly what we and others warned of, and now, within months of the protocol coming into force, the UK government has realised how bad the implications are and is having emergency meetings with the EU to try and solve the problem."

Mr Parry said there was a direct parallel with the deadline the UK has set itself for agreeing a trade deal with Australia.

“The Brexit Minister is going through the difficult process of trying to renegotiate an international agreement that has turned out to be very problematic. We do not want to see the same thing happening with an international agreement with Australia because there was a rush to be seen to get things done and the implications were not carefully scrutinised.”

With the government’s own figures estimating the trade benefits of a deal with Australia to be worth just 0.01 - 0.02% of UK GDP over a 15 year period, Mr Parry said it was hardly as if the UK would lose out financially if it took time to get things right. 

“The implications of a rushed deal with Australia could last for generations as renegotiating or breaking trade deals that turn out to be damaging has major implications under international law.

“The FUW has been in meetings with Ministers and MPs to discuss our concerns on almost a daily basis in recent weeks. We have made it clear that we are supportive of trade deals that open up opportunities but we need to do all we can to avoid a bad deal that cannot be undone and has severe lasting economic and social impacts for Welsh farming communities and UK food standards.

“The difficult negotiations between Messrs Frost and Sefcovic months after an agreement came into force should send a stark warning to ministers and MPs as to why plenty of time and detailed scrutiny is needed when considering reaching a deal with Australia or any other country,” he added.