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Scotch whisky tariffs slashed as part of Australia free trade deal

Tariffs on Scotch whisky exports to Australia will be removed as part of a new post-Brexit trade deal.

Industry bosses have said the removal of the 5% tariff will give a “real boost” to the sector.

Scotland’s whisky exports to Australia have doubled in the last 10 years, with around £126m worth of beverages shipped in the last year alone.

Scotch Whisky Association boss Karen Betts told us: “This will help Scotch whisky distillers continue to expand exports to Australia, our eight largest market by value.

“We await further details of the agreement in principle, but a framework for addressing regulatory barriers to trade with Australia, to ensure greater legal protection and tax fairness for Scotch whisky, is also important to us, and – if delivered in this agreement – will be a real boost for the industry.”

Scottish farmers are concerned however that the deal could result in animal welfare standards falling and small family run firms being left unable to compete with a flood of cheap food imports.

National Farmers Union Scotland vice-chairman Robin Traquair said there would be “hue and cry” if British farms adopted some of the farming techniques used in Australia.

Robin Traquair

He added: “I want to know the safeguards in this deal and I want to know what the welfare standards will be.”

In the lead-up to the deal being agreed, a split in the Cabinet appeared between Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Environment Secretary George Eustice, who has concerns about the impact on farmers.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove also harbours fears that the agreement could fuel demands for Scottish and Welsh independence.

Announcing the deal today, Downing Street said farmers will be protected by a cap on tariff-free imports for 15 years, using “tariff rate quotas and other safeguards”.

Boris Johnson said: “Today marks a new dawn in the UK’s relationship with Australia, underpinned by our shared history and common values.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“Our new free-trade agreement opens fantastic opportunities for British businesses and consumers, as well as young people wanting the chance to work and live on the other side of the world.

“This is global Britain at its best – looking outwards and striking deals that deepen our alliances and help ensure every part of the country builds back better from the pandemic.”

Asked what the agreement will mean for farmers, the prime minister said: “We’re opening up to Australia, but we’re doing it in a staggered way and we’re doing it over 15 years.

“We’re retaining safeguards, making sure we have protections against sudden influxes of goods and also making sure we adhere to the strongest possible standards for animal welfare.

“As you can imagine, that is what the British consumer is going to want.”

Fails farmers

Highlands MP Jamie Stone dismissed Mr Johnson’s comments, he said: “Quite simply, the agreement fails our farmers, and it fails consumers who care about animal welfare standards.

“The deal will benefit the whisky industry – and for that I am glad! I just think that not putting it to Parliament has meant that other industries, like the farming industry, have been cut out with no means of recourse.”

Under the agreement, Brits under the age of 35 will also be able to travel and work in Australia more freely, opening exciting opportunities for young people.

Parliament will have the opportunity to scrutinise the agreement in detail once the text is published, along with an impact assessment and explanatory memorandum.

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