SNP urges Scottish secretary to strike back or resign over Australia trade deal
Ian Blackford has argued Scottish Secretary Alister Jack would have to fight back or resign over a “damaging” free trade deal with Australia that would threaten the future of Scottish farmers.
The SNP chief in Westminster said Scottish farmers and ranchers would be disproportionately affected by such a deal, with the country’s beef, dairy, sheep and grain sectors particularly at risk.
UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss held talks with her Australian counterpart as the two countries moved closer to a free trade deal as British farmers grew worried that full liberalization would jeopardize them seriously by their Australian rivals.
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The call came after ministers met on Thursday to discuss their differences, with UK Environment Secretary George Eustice and Cabinet Minister Michael Gove leading the resistance to a zero tariff, zero quota deal demanded by the Australians.
In a letter to Mr Jack on Saturday, Mr Blackford said: ‘The lingering uncertainty surrounding the prospect of your government signing a post-Brexit trade deal, which would grant duty-free access to Australian farmers, is a deep and growing source. concern for our own farming and crofting communities.
“This morning’s speculation on an offer by the UK government to phase in a zero rate and zero quota regime over a number of years could, in fact, impose a time limit on future means of agricultural subsistence in these islands.
“Given that this speculated offer is currently only a negotiating position, the real threat exists that an already disastrous deal for farmers can only get worse.
“Such a trade deal would represent a bitter betrayal of rural communities, undermine and undermine our agricultural sector and pose a real threat to future viability.
“As you must know, Scottish farmers and ranchers would be disproportionately affected by such a damaging deal, with our cattle, dairy, sheep and grains sectors particularly at risk. There is also concern that an agreement of this nature could set a precedent for other trade agreements, which would further harm our agricultural sector. ”
Downing Street has indicated that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is hopeful that a deal can be reached at the time of the G7 summit in Cornwall next month.
Mr Blackford urged Mr Jack to ‘stand with Scottish farmers and ranchers and firmly oppose a deal that threatens to bankrupt them’.
He wrote: “I urge you to break your deafening silence on this crucial issue and fight against this damaging agreement.
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“This means opposing any trade deal that will, at any time, grant quota-free, duty-free access to Australian lamb and beef.
‘Given the seriousness and scale of this problem for Scottish farmers and ranchers, it is also clear that your only credible option is to make it clear that this is a resigning issue if your views are ignored in Cabinet. ”
A UK government spokeswoman said: ‘Any deal we sign with Australia will include protections for the agricultural industry and will not harm UK farmers or compromise our high standards.
“As a general rule, any tariff liberalization is phased in time, with built-in safeguards. Australian meat represents a very small proportion of the UK’s total imports and is produced to high standards.
“We will continue to work with the industry, keeping them involved throughout the process and helping them realize the full benefits of trade.”
A UK government source added: “It is clear from Ian Blackford’s increasingly embarrassing interventions that he has no interest in seriously engaging on the issue of trade deals.”