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It is expected to give producers from Down Under tariff-free access to UK markets within a decade, lowering costs for consumers. But agricultural groups have expressed concerns that British farmers could be undercut. The move has also sparked a furious ministerial row over the terms of the deal.
Speaking to MPs on the Commons International Trade Committee, Miss Truss said the Government was currently in a “sprint” with a view to agreeing a deal with Australia “in principle” by early June.
And she insisted that British farmers would not lose out, highlighting the opportunities for them to export to the hugely lucrative Asian market in the future.
“I have had discussions with the National Farmers’ Union, I’ve been very clear with them that, of course, I’m always looking to make sure – as I have committed to – that British farmers will not be undercut by unfair practices from elsewhere.
“We will make sure in all the deals we do that British farming thrives and I’m absolutely confident that will be achieved through the Australia deal.
“The Australia deal is also the gateway to CPTPP (the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership), which has huge opportunities for British farming.
“We’re seeing 66 percent of the world’s middle classes are going to be in Asia by 2030, growing demand for products like beef and lamb, so both Australian access and CPTPP access, I think, is positive for British farming.”
At Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson accused SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford of being “frightened of free trade”.
Mr Johnson said: “He is grossly underestimating the ability of the people of this country, the agricultural communities of this country, the farming industry to make the most of free trade.
“This is a country that grew successful and prosperous on free trade on exporting around the world.
“Our food exports are second to none, he should be proud of that, we should be celebrating that and all he does is call for us to pull up the drawbridge and go back into the EU to be run by Brussels, that’s his manifesto and I think the people of this country have decisively rejected it.”
Two factions have emerged within the Cabinet with Mr Johnson said to be backing Ms Truss.
Lord Frost, the Brexit Minister, and Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, are also in her camp.
Mr Eustice and his supporters, who include Michael Gove, have been labelled “Waitrose Tories”.
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