Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has called out government “incompetence” after it emerged that ministers have agreed to sell out UK farmers and crofters in order to get a trade deal with Australia. Mr Carmichael responded to reports in the Sun that the Prime Minister had already decided to concede zero tariff, zero quota access for Australian goods ahead of further negotiations in order to secure a deal, putting the economic security of farmers and crofters at risk. Farming and environmental groups have expressed strong concerns about an open access deal due to Australia’s lower welfare standards, including the use of growth hormones. Australian farming leaders have predicted a “tenfold” rise in beef exports to the UK if a deal is struck.
Mr Carmichael said:
“It is not necessarily the sign of a good trade negotiator to announce in advance the concessions you plan to make. Greater free trade with friendly countries around the world like Australia is something we should strive for. The point of agreeing trade deals, however, is not simply to be able to say that you have agreed a trade deal. The idea is to get things that you need for businesses and workers. The idea is to ensure that keystone industries like farming are not undermined by one-sided negotiations, giving away free access for nothing in return.
“This incompetent Government wants to sell out farmers and crofters to get a quick trade deal. Based on his responses in Parliament this week it appears that the Prime Minister has joined the anti-farming brigade wholeheartedly. If he wants to destroy agriculture across the country in order to win a few more votes in the Red Wall he should just come out and say so.
“The Tories have lost touch with the needs of rural communities in their rush to undermine farmers and crofters – if they continue to take them for granted then they may have a rude awakening in the next election.”