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MSPs say a tariff-free trade deal with Australia sets a “damaging” precedent

MSPs have been debating the impact a free trade agreement with Australia will have on Scottish farmers
MSPs have been debating the impact a free trade agreement with Australia will have on Scottish farmers

Scottish MSPs say they are worried a potential tariff-free trade deal between the UK and Australia will set a “damaging precedent” for future deals.

MSPs debated the proposed trade deal between the two countries in Holyrood, and said it risks undercutting Scottish farmers and importing meat that has not met the high standards expected in Scotland.

The debate was led by the SNP’s Jim Fairlie, MSP for Perthshire South and Kinross-shire and a farmer.

MSPs say proposed deal will be damaging to Scotland’s farmers

He says the deal will have a devastating impact on Scottish farmers as he says it could put some out of business, and compared the effect it might have to the Highland Clearances of the late 1800s.

Mr Fairlie said: “The complete elimination of tariffs seriously impacts farming and the rural communities it supports.

Jim Fairlie, MSP for Perthshire South and Kinross-shire

“Complete market liberalisation could be devastating on those that rely on the industry and the precedent it sets will be difficult to avoid in future trade deals.

“The very survival of the industry could be jeopardised by a trade deal with Australia – all of this could be destroyed at the stroke of Boris Johnson’s pen with a deal that would take us back to the early 1900s.

All of this could be destroyed at the stroke of Boris Johnson’s pen with a deal that would take us back to the early 1900s.

“We should make sure we do everything so he doesn’t get that opportunity on everything we have worked so hard to build.”

Liam McArthur, Lib Dem MSP for Orkney, added: “I am concerned about the cumulative impact successive deals might have.

“Once the precedent is set, it is difficult to avoid this in upcoming deals.”

Alasdair Allan, SNP MSP for the Western Isles, also questioned if this would lead to future deals with countries that do not have such stringent environmental standards as Scotland.

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Gillian Martin, SNP MSP for Aberdeenshire East, added if the deal does set the precedence for lower quality products to be imported into the UK, it could be “damaging”.

She said: “This is about the food we eat and what our bairns put in their bellies.

“Access to post-Brexit deals must be properly scrutinised to secure the future of the sector.

“Rushing through a trade deal is a damaging precedent.”

Conservatives say worries are fuelled by SNP ‘scaremongering’

However Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Finlay Carson from the Scottish Conservatives defended his party’s plans to progress a tariff-free trade deal with Australia.

Finlay Carson, MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries

He also said the SNP would rather make political points than work to try and get the best deal for Scottish farmers.

Mr Carson said: “Worries about the Australian free trade deal is fuelled by the scaremongering of the SNP.

“The fact is no trade deal would undercut farmers here or compromise our high standards.

No trade deal would undercut farmers here or compromise our high standards.

“It is also unlikely Australian products will threaten farmers here as they already have an unused lamb quota.

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“I believe we are jumping the gun as we are unaware of any trade deal that will be detrimental to farmers.”

Mairi McAllan, minister for the environment, biodiversity and land reform, closed the debate by saying the deal with Australia will have a “devastating” effect on Scottish farmers and called for an urgent change of position from the UK Government on the matter.

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