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The UK has offered Australia a tariff-free, quota-free trade deal, including the full liberalisation of agricultural trade.

These conditions would put the agreement, in line with the terms of EU-UK accord, once the 10-to-15-year lead-in period (the length of which is still under negotiation) is completed. Such a deal will bring with it significant changes for the UK market, opening it up to further highly-competitive low-cost imports, particularly for the beef and lamb sectors.

The dairy sector is likely to be less impacted by this specific agreement with Australia; however, it does spell trouble ahead, as there are strong signals that a similar offer will be made to New Zealand and potentially also the USA, both of which are offensive on dairy trade.

As much discussed in the lead up to Brexit, this approach by the UK Government to its trade policy will significantly erode the value of the UK market for Irish exporters.  

UK farmers have strongly rejected the proposed offer and the threat it poses for local producers, and have received considerable support, particularly from Scotland, who wish to see quota restrictions on imports.  

Meanwhile the EU continues to pursue its own trade negotiations with both Australia and New Zealand, which is expected to enter into the 11th round of talks in June.

The EU has to date been more cautious in its offer on sensitive sectors such as beef and sheep-meat in relation to Australia and dairy for New Zealand.

It is understood that the Commission is however is preparing a new offer on dairy market access for its upcoming talks with New Zealand, for which it is vital that a cautious approach is taken.

Alison Graham – European Affairs Executive