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MPs urged to block Australia trade deal over ‘broken promise’ on scrutiny

MPs urged to block Australia trade deal over ‘broken promise’ on scrutiny
Government condemned for trying ‘to rush it through’ – in echoes of Northern Ireland Protocol now being torn up

MPs should block the Australia trade deal because the government has broken a promise to allow it to be scrutinised properly, a damning report says.

Ministers are condemned for trying “to rush it through” – despite evidence that farmers will suffer og climate crisis has been sacrificed – even as Canberra pauses on ratifying the agreement.

MPs are supposed to be given time to consider if any new trade deal protects human health, animal welfare and the environment before the ratification process begins.

But the Commons international trade committee says it was denied full information until 6 June – yet ratification of the Australia deal has already begun and will conclude on 20 juli.

Angus MacNeil warned damage from the deal might not be “fully uncovered” – pointing out how ministers praised the Northern Ireland Protocol, but are now tearing it up.

“This could have damaging effects for businesses and communities across the UK,” he warned, calling the lack of scrutiny “beyond belief”.

Calling for ratification to be delayed, Mr MacNeill added: “The government rushed the scrutiny of the Northern Ireland Protocol, and we can all see the consequences of that now.”

The committee will demand answers from Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the international trade secretary, when she gives evidence on the Australia trade deal on Wednesday.

She is accused of dodging scrutiny until after kickstarting ratification under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act (CRaG) – the MPs noting her appearance “follows eight requests”.

The deal has huge political significance for the government – as the first post-Brexi agreement with a new partner – but is forecast to add just 0.08 per cent to the economy and not until 2035.

Ministers say it will allow young backpackers to visit Australia for longer and give greater certainty to scientists, lawyers and other professionals seeking visas.

But tariffs will be scrapped immediately on imported beef and lamb, up to a “cap” on sales expected many times the current level of Australian meat sold in this country, alarming farmers.

The government’s own impact assessment revealed the deal will cost farmers and food producers almost £300m – despite Boris Johnson’s vow to “protect’ them.

There is also anger over the UK secretly dropping a pledge to bind Australia to the 1.5C global temperature rise target at the heart of the last year’s Cop26 climate negotiations.

A Lords committee raised fears that “deforested land” in Australia will be used to produce beef and cereal for the UK and “pesticides banned in the UK”.

Ministers say the deal will boost trade by £10.4bn by 2035 – a 53 per cent increase – of which £6.2bn will be UK exports to Australia, such as cars, Scotch whisky and UK fashion.