Irwin urges caution on UK/Australia trade deal

Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman William Irwin MLA, pictured, has said that all efforts must be made to protect Northern Ireland agri-food production from the threat of a zero tariff and zero quota trade deal between the UK and Australia.

Saturday, 29th May 2021, 10:08 am

Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman William Irwin MLA pictured, has said that all efforts must be made to protect Northern Ireland agri-food production from the threat of a zero tariff and zero quota trade deal between the UK and Australia.

Mr Irwin said such a deal, if permitted, would create a flood of produce from Australia where agri-food standards are lower and he said it would put Northern Ireland at a competitive disadvantage.

Mr Irwin said: “A key part of any future trade negotiations should be from a position of protecting home markets and both strengthening and growing them. A zero tariff, zero quota free trade deal with Australia does neither with regards to Northern Ireland agriculture and it is right that Minister Poots has raised these concerns with Secretary of State George Eustice.

“It must also be remembered that debate is intensifying over climate change and the impact of Northern Ireland agri-food on the drive to lowering emissions. Whilst I have my specific views on this matter, I think it would be very foolish for the British Government to negotiate a trade deal that would flood our markets with product from a country with lower standards of production and no firm guarantees around the level of climate action they will take when compared with the UK.”

He said: “Having a deal on the table which undercuts our own local producers with produce that is of a lesser quality with much lower animal welfare standards is not a positive step forward. Northern Ireland farmers pride themselves in producing food to a very high standard and that is something that our consumers expect in these modern times, this significant effort must not be undercut with cheap imports.

“There is no doubt that leaving the European Union will yield important opportunities, however it is crucial that our very high standards of animal welfare are protected and not diminished by trade deals that deliver a severe blow to our local farmers,” he concluded.