British farmers will be given a “very long transition” to prepare for new competition from any UK-Australia trade deal, according to international trade secretary Liz Truss.
Truss suggested the deal will result in zero quotas and tariffs on Australian agricultural exports, but said she was “fully confident” British farmers would be able to compete.
A cabinet row erupted last week over the proposed trade deal, which is set to be agreed in principle by next month.
Environment secretary George Eustice does not want the trade deal to completely open up the UK market to Australian meat and produce due to the effect it could have on British farmers.
It was reported last week that the deal could take 15 years to come fully into effect after a long transition period.
Speaking to LBC, Truss said: “UK beef is very competitive and we are already exporting it to markets around the world. So I am fully confident that our farmers will be able to compete.
“Currently the EU have tariff-free, quota-free access to the UK and they are a much bigger beef producer than Australia so we already import over 200,000 tonnes of beef from the EU.
“So what we are talking about is, in the long term – so this is not going to happen quickly, there will be a very long transition period – allowing Australia the same kind of access the EU already has.”
The UK-Australia trade deal would be the first post-Brexit agreement the UK has done completely from scratch and is considered a key milestone in Boris Johnson’s “Global Britain” agenda.
Australia wants all tariffs and quotas removed on its agricultural products and in return tariffs would be slashed on things like British cars.
The UK also wants Australia to open up its economy to the British telecommunications industry.
There has been backlash about the proposed deal from the UK’s National Farmers Union, who still want tariffs and quotas on Australian food exporters to protect local producers.
Eustice said that that the UK wants to sign trade deals, “but obviously on the right terms”.