By Paul Giles

brown cattle on green lawn grass during daytime
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The saga continues; FTA “ratification” by the UK remains some way off. But it’s so bad for Cornish animal husbandry, so perhaps that’s a benefit! Ratified by the Australian Parliament, the FTA awaits completion of the “Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill” before implementation can progress.

The bill is at the report stage in the House of Lords (HoL), which means amendments are under consideration. Next, it will have a Lords’ third reading, with amendments incorporated before returning to the Commons for consideration of the amendments. So don’t expect any implementation for several weeks yet (progress link below).

Baroness Liddle (Scotland based) echoed much Select Committees comment in her speech:

“The Australians are delighted with this deal, as well they should be. But our government gloss over the projected growth in GDP by 2035, which is only 0.08%. We have to bear that in mind and see what we can do to advance it. That could be why the Australian government’s website is much more helpful to those of us who want to analyse the deal, while the UK government have been remarkably coy. If you want information about this trade deal, go on to the Australian government’s site and then you will get it.”

Even then, recall the 0.08% is a massive four-fold increase over the original impact assessment. This increase arrived suddenly just over a year ago. Although, naturally, reasons for such a huge rise provoke serious audit questions, ongoing correspondence with the DIT and their “auditor”, the Regulatory Policy Committee, continues to fail to justify it to the slightest extent.

Meanwhile, Cornwall’s concerns about being undercut by a cheaper production location remain. There is also the environmental consideration – stated repeatedly in the Lords – of needlessly shipping beef and lamb already available in the UK or nearby in Europe halfway round the world instead. The widely held view remains that this FTA is “any deal” at “any price” (even George, below, agrees!) in order for the government to try and demonstrate that something can be retrieved from the ashes of Brexit. There is doubt now that, beyond noise, this FTA offers any significant benefit for the UK at all.

In terms of the individuals involved, the Rt Hon George Eustice, MP for Camborne and Redruth, has chucked in the towel; he won’t be standing in 2024, there will be a new candidate. Recent events mean that many Conservative MP’s are treating the next election as “already gone” and perhaps George is in that cohort; maybe even his 8,700 majority is at risk. At least George had some local farming experience; his (latest) replacement at DEFRA, the Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey MP, not only has none but is helpfully located 400 miles away in Suffolk Coastal.

We hope to have an update on justification for the 0.08% next month.

Lastly, on a tangential note, Amanda Owen – who has achieved some fame as the “Yorkshire Shepherdess” – wrote on 24 January of the damage Brexit has done to Hill Farming in her area. It continues to astonish that so many Hill Farmers voted leave. Brexit just gets worse and worse.

Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill – Parliamentary Bills – UK Parliament

Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill – Second Reading: 9 Jan 2023: House of Lords debates – TheyWorkForYou

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