A Perthshire MSP says tariff-free trade deals with countries like Australia could turn Scotland into an “agricultural wasteland”.
Jim Fairlie, MSP for Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, says the prospect of a tariff-free trade deal between the UK and Australia could pose a threat to Scotland’s farmers, and could even lead to some family farms in Perthshire going out of business.
The UK Government has offered trade deal terms to Australia, which would phase out taxes on imports over the next 15 years.
The trade deal would see Australia granted access to the UK food market with no taxes on imports, making it easier and cheaper for big Australian farms to export lamb, beef and pork.
It would also mean British farmers can export their goods to Australia for free, however many farmers say they are worried about being undercut by larger overseas producers.
Scotland’s food sector “under threat”, says Jim Fairlie MSP
Mr Fairlie says imports from places like Australia could be “lower in price and lower in quality” than the “world-renowned” Scottish lamb, beef and pork.
The MSP is himself a farmer in Perthshire, and as well as being a politician runs his business The Kitchen Farmer and founded Perth Farmers’ Market.
He said: “Scotland’s food exports are world-renowned for their quality and make an incredible contribution to Scotland’s economy.
“It cannot be stressed enough how much damage a tariff-free deal would do to the industry, with farmers and crofters being undercut by imports that are lower in price and lower in quality.
Today I asked my first parliamentary question at FMQs.Douglas Ross prefers to be a lamb than a calf,but he’ll skip right over another of his red lines,my farming friends, he promised he’d be your champion, and yet this deal will be catastrophic for farming https://t.co/u5ZzQEfzqp
— Jim Fairlie MSP (@JimFairlieLogie) May 27, 2021
“In many communities, including in my constituency, farming is a way of life and the prospect of a tariff-free deal could mean many family businesses which have been passed on through the generations going out of business.
“The Tories are threatening an agricultural wasteland for Scotland.
The Tories are threatening an agricultural wasteland for Scotland.
“Once again Scotland’s food sector is under threat from the Tories and their pursuit of Brexit.
“They have already wreaked havoc on Scotland’s fishing sector – we cannot see the same happen to our world-class farmers.”
He adds the issue highlights why Scotland would be “better off” as an independent country which is part of the European Union.
Mr Fairlie will now lead a members’ business debate today where he will highlight the “hugely damaging consequences” of a tariff-free trade deal with Australia.
A spokesman for the Department of International Trade said: “Any deal we sign will include protections for the agriculture industry and will not undercut UK farmers or compromise our high standards.
“This is a deal for the whole union.
“Our exports minister was in Scotland last week to champion the benefits of the Australia FTA, highlighting how a tariff reduction would benefit iconic goods like Scotch whisky.
“A deal with Australia will boost the UK’s bid to join CPTPP, providing a gateway into the fast-growing Indo-Pacific region, where there is a growing demand for our products.”