THERE has been a mixed reaction from Cumbrian industry chiefs and MPs to the Government’s proposed 15-year transition to a zero-tariff, zero-quota trade deal with Australia.

While Dr Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and The Border and member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee urges caution and patience over the trade deal, South Lakes MP, Tim Farron has accused the Government of selling out British farming after it emerged that MPs would not get to scrutinise the UK’s trade deal with Australia before it is signed.

Dr Hudson argued that the Free Trade Agreement would be a ‘huge benefit’ to both countries.

He said: “We are the closest of friends and share so much in common. That said, I very much share the concerns of farmers in Cumbria and across the UK that the implications of the FTA may be potentially damaging to our farming sector. In the UK, we produce top quality food with high animal welfare standards and it is important that these standards are upheld in trade deals. This is something as a veterinary surgeon I am passionate about and on which as an MP I have been prepared to vote against the Government on several occasions.”

But Mr Farron said “It is an act of utter cowardice for the Government to only let MPs scrutinise the Australia trade deal after it has been signed and shows the complete contempt they have for British farmers.”

He added he would be tabling a written Parliamentary Question to ask International Trade Secretary Liz Truss to appear before the House of Commons to allow MPs to scrutinise the trade deal before it gets signed off.“If Australian farmers are given the green light to undercut British farmers then it’s likely the Government will allow Canadian, New Zealand and American farmers to do the same. ”

NFU Cumbria County Adviser James Airey said: “This will be the first big post-Brexit trade deal that is not a ‘rollover’ of existing agreements the UK enjoyed as an EU member. It could therefore set precedents for all other following trade deals, so is essential it is got right.

“The NFU wants to see an international trade outcome that supports UK farmers to grow their businesses and to grow food for Britain and beyond. To do so, the Government must take a bold but composed approach during trade negotiations.The NFU is not opposed to a trade deal with Australia, but any trade deal must be fair and balanced for both sides and include safeguards to ensure that the Government’s commitments can be realised..”

Scott Donaldson, Managing Director of Harrison & Hetherington, says: “The potential Australian trade deal raises many questions about the Government’s view of the future of farming in the UK, and more specifically livestock production. If we are to accept, without tariff, beef and lamb from Australia, shipped or flown from the other side of the planet, are we not contradicting every GB policy written concerning climate change? A trade deal of this kind would come at a huge environmental cost, adding thousands of food miles onto a product that is readily available and can be sourced locally.

“Our livestock is reared to the very highest animal welfare standards and the highest production standards, in a country with a climate made for growing grass. Therefore, it must be made perfectly clear to those making the decisions that we absolutely cannot afford to have our top-quality produce undermined by potentially cheaper imports from the other side of the world.

“If we are to accept any global competition to land product on our shores, the playing field has to be level. Imports must be reared and grown under the same rigorous production and animal welfare standards that British farmers have to adhere to ”

Country Land and Business Association (CLA) President Mark Bridgeman said zero tariffs and zero quotas on agricultural imports would leave British farmers exposed.