Trade just the start! Leading politics expert raises alarm as bitter ‘Brexit battles’ loom

Australia trade deal 'will benefit UK wine industry' says expert

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Britain and Canberra are seeking to strike a trade agreement by mid-June following another round of bilateral talks, the British High Commissioner to Australia Vicki Treadell said. Both countries have agreed on the vast majority of issues for the deal, which could add £500 million to British economic output.

However, Anand Menon, professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at King’s College London, said the deal with Canberra led to “angry skirmishes in cabinet”.

He wrote in the Independent: “For them, trade deals are a way of taking on entrenched lobbies and beginning the profound reform of the UK economy for which Brexit was simply an overture.

“On the other were those, chiefly George Eustice and Michael Gove, worried primarily about the effect on agriculture, but also about the fact that the impact of cheap beef imports from Australia may well be disproportionately felt by Scottish farmers.

“The argument seems to have been won by those favouring liberalisation.

“In purely economic terms, the stakes are low, but trade is just the opening salvo in the post-Brexit economic battles to come.”

Mr Menon went on to argue how after five years of Brexit talks, the UK may “finally be at the point of knowing” what Brexit means.

He continued: “And so, some five years into the Brexit journey, we may finally be at the point of knowing what, precisely Brexit means.

“It is only then that we will come to know who, ultimately, Brexit is for.

“Ambiguity has run its course. Choices will have to be made, and free trade agreements signal the first of these.

“Will Brexiteers have the courage of their convictions?”

Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss and her Australian counterpart Dan Tehan held talks late on Thursday, the British High Commissioner to Australia Vicki Treadell said.

Ms Treadwell said: “We are working hard to have an agreement in principle at the bilateral between Prime Ministers Johnson and Morrison on June 15.

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Last night, Secretary of State Liz Truss had another session with Trade Minister Tehan and respective chief negotiators.”

The proposed deal with Australia is the most advanced of several deals being pursued by London.

But, British farmers have complained that they could be forced out of business if the deal eliminates tariffs on lamb and beef imports from Australia.

Ms Truss said she was seeking the removal of Australia’s five percent tariff on Scotch whisky as part of the deal.

Australia is the eighth-biggest market for Scotch whisky exports, which were worth £113 million last year, the trade department said.

It comes as member nations of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) on Wednesday agreed to allow Britain to start the process of joining the pact.

Britain has sought to broker numerous trade deals with countries around the world since Brexit.

More than 66 deals have been agreed over the past two years, with most being rollover pacts on the same terms with countries as when the UK was an EU member state.

The first significant new pact negotiated since becoming independent was the UK-Japan deal finalised last autumn.

Terms of the agreement with Australia were largely settled in April during face-to-face talks.

Ministers said an announcement finalising the free trade pact was expected in June.

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