CUMBRIAN MP Tim Farron has accused the Government of betraying farmers in Cumbria and weakening British environmental and animal welfare standards, by preparing to sign up to a free trade deal with Australia.

Reports say that there are splits in the cabinet about whether to sign off the deal, amid fears that it would allow Australian farmers to undercut British farmers by giving them tariff-free access to the UK market.

The President of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Minette Batters has warned that if the Government should go ahead with the proposed deal then it would result in family farms in places like Cumbria being ‘thrown under a bus’.

Mr Farron said: “So often Conservative ministers take to social media to say how much they love British farming but their proposed new trade deal with Australia shows that when push comes to shove they are perfectly happy to sell our farmers down the river.

“The NFU are clear that letting Australian farmers sell their produce tariff-free into the UK would spell a disaster for small British family farms. Australian animal welfare standards are lower than the UK’s which makes for lower production costs and cheaper produce. Therefore the only way that small British family farms could compete would be to lower their own standards.

“To go ahead with this trade deal on these terms would be a betrayal of Cumbria’s farmers who are so vital in feeding us and protecting our environment.I will continue to stand up for local farmers, and fight to protect Britain’s high quality animal welfare and environmental standards.”

Trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand have reached an advanced stage but many feel small family farms cannot compete.