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MP accuses Conservatives of undermining Cumbrian farmers in Australia trade deal

January 7, 2022 4:06 PM

On the floor of the House of Commons this week, South Lakes MP Tim Farron slammed Conservative ministers for throwing Cumbrian farmers under a bus in their new trade deal with Australia.

The National Farmers' Union have described the deal as "one-sided" and "damaging", while the RSPCA have warned that it could "sell out" Britain's high animal welfare standards.

Speaking during a ministerial statement in Parliament about the trade deal, Tim said: "I am passionate about free trade, and so are the farmers in Cumbria and so, I assume, are the farmers in Northumberland. No free trade is really free if it is not fair.

"When it comes to animal welfare, this deal clearly is not fair.

"I wonder whether the Secretary of State truly comprehends the astonishing difference in terms of animal welfare standards between farming, and livestock farming in particular, in her own community and in mine compared with Australia.

"There are staggering and astonishing differences in scale - the fact that we have close husbandry in this country and vast areas and no husbandry in Australia.

"Moreover, there is the lack of humane standards in abattoirs and also when it comes to the transportation of livestock.

"Surely this deal undermines our farmers, undermines the standards that we hold dear and throws our agriculture under a bus in order to get a cheap deal.

"How will she reply to her own farmers who will be as shocked and appalled as I am by much of this deal?

Responding, the International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: "I will direct all our farmers who have concerns to the level of the safeguards that I set out earlier, which should reassure them, and, importantly, to the continuing growth in new markets of the opportunities for them to sell our fantastic UK produce to the rest of the world.

"The standards are very clear and the animal welfare chapter has set out, in a way that Australia has never committed to in any other trade deal, that non-regression and working together is the way to move forward.

"We have not looked at anything in the poultry, pigs and eggs sector precisely because we did not believe that we could find a level of compatibility in standards, but we are comfortable with what the animal welfare chapter sets out and that it will help us all move forward.

"Really importantly, our fantastic producers - in the case of the honourable gentleman and me they are our sheep farmers who make some of the finest lamb in the world - should be excited at the prospect not only of this free trade deal, but of all the free trade deals and, indeed, the release of the US import ban for them to find new markets."