Social Democratic and Labour Party Agriculture Spokesperson Patsy McGlone MLA has said that the impact of a UK trade deal with Australia that includes zero tariffs on agriculture products would risk flooding local markets with cheap, low quality meat imports from third party countries that would decimate local farming businesses if the protections of the Protocol were withdrawn.
The Mid Ulster MLA has called on Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots to intervene in support of local farmers and take on the blinkered interests in Whitehall who want a deal at any cost.
Patsy McGlone MLA said:
“The British Government’s trade negotiations with Australia should be a major concern for farmers and producers in Britain and here in the North. Blinkered Brexiteer negotiators in Whitehall are keen to settle a trade deal with the Australian government at any cost. That appears to mean zero tariffs applied to agriculture products, including beef and lamb imports. That would have a devastating impact on local farming businesses if these products were to come to market here.
“Applying a zero tariff term to these products for Australia would mean the British Government offering the same to third party countries like the USA and Brazil where animal welfare standards are lower and, as a consequence, meat is offered at a far cheaper rate. Our products are of extremely high quality and attract a higher overall price as a result. The introduction of cheap, low quality meat would distort the local market and leave our farmers at a disadvantage.
“Without the protections of the Protocol, this would be a serious threat to our agri-food industry. The Agriculture Minister needs to weigh in and take on the blinkered interests in Whitehall. Either Edwin Poots wants to trash the protocol and leave us at the mercy of these deals which do not represent the interests of local people or he wants to diverge from the GB position. Whatever it is, we need to hear from our Minister now.”