Sunday, 13 Jun 2021

Get on with it, Liz! Red Wall Tory voters back UK-Australia trade deal as ‘top priority’

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A number of Red Wall seats, traditional Labour strongholds in the north and midlands, voted Tory in 2019 handing Boris Johnson a parliamentary majority. The British Government is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with Australia, the first that isn’t based around a previous EU deal.

But this has reportedly caused controversy within the Cabinet with some Ministers fearful of the impact on UK agriculture.

The Stack Data Strategy survey, conducted for the Initiative for Free Trade, found 87 percent of Tory voters in Red Wall seats back a UK-Australia free trade agreement.

They ranked Australia as Britain’s second-highest priority for securing a trade deal with, behind only the United States.

Some 85 percent of respondents argued an Australian deal will “show that the UK is taking advantage of the opportunities outside the EU to improve trade links with the rest of the world”.

Another 80 percent believe it will “make it easier for people in both countries to provide services to the other”.

Lord Hannan, a former Tory MEP and IFT President, welcomed the findings.

He said: “This poll should grab the attention of anyone interested in the political economy of the UK, and particularly the future of the Conservative Party.

“Boris Johnson has begun repainting the Red Wall – this survey suggests that for those very same voters, a trade deal with Australia is a top priority.”

On Wednesday Liz Truss, the International Trade Secretary, said negotiations with Australia are “in a sprint” towards agreement.

The National Farmers Union has warned an agreement could undercut UK farmers.

It is urging the Government to “make sure concessions to our hugely valuable home market are not given away lightly”.

Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister, also raised concerns during an appearance on BBC Radio 4.

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He commented: “How can our hill farmers compete with Australian climate?

“How can our hill farmers compete with the space that is available for the huge farms that they have in Australia?”

Writing in the Daily Telegraph Lord Hannan argued deals like one being negotiated with Australia must be signed to make Brexit a success.

He said: “If we can’t do a proper trade deal even with our kinsmen Down Under, we might as well throw in the towel.

“Australia matches or surpasses the EU in its animal welfare standards. Its agricultural produce is counter-seasonal to ours.

“Restricting such a deal would amount to an even more closed policy than the one forced on us by Brussels.

“There were arguments for staying in the EU and there were arguments for leaving.

“There is no argument whatever for abandoning the advantages of membership and then ignoring the opportunities of withdrawal.”

Britain formally left the EU in January 2020 after decades of membership.

It remained closely tied to the bloc until the end of December during the Brexit transition period, which has now been replaced by Boris Johnson’s new trade deal.
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