UK-Australia trade deal will 'in no way compensate' for Brexit, Scottish Government says as agreement signed

The Scottish Government has claimed the trade deal officially signed between the UK and Australia will “in no way compensate” for Brexit and described the lack of a role in negotiations as “unacceptable”.

The “landmark” trade deal will cut tariffs on imports of wine and surfboards and make it easier for young Britons to work Down Under.

The deal, announced by prime ministers Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison in June, was finalised at a virtual signing ceremony on Thursday night.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right, walks with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison after their meeting, in the garden of 10 Downing Street in London in June. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/Pool Photo via AP

But the agreement, the first to be negotiated from scratch since Brexit, is expected to add little to economic growth in the long run, while critics have warned about the impact on British farmers and questioned its commitments on tackling climate change.

SNP shadow international trade spokesperson Drew Hendry said: "Despite the repeated warnings, the Tory government has ploughed ahead with its damaging post-Brexit plans, which will hammer Scottish farmers and our key industries.

"Beyond the rhetoric, the UK Government's own assessment makes clear that this trade deal with Australia will open up the market to cheaper imports of goods produced to lower animal welfare standards, which will undermine and undercut Scotland’s farmers, crofters and food producers.

"Brexit has been an unmitigated disaster and it is our economy, businesses and people's livelihoods that are being forced to pay a heavy price, with the UK Government’s own economic analysis suggesting that this deal will increase GDP by just 0.08 per cent, while Brexit would lead to a 4.9 per cent contraction in GDP.

"Scotland is increasingly vulnerable under Westminster control."

The final deal was signed in a virtual ceremony by international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan and will now be laid in Parliament for a period of scrutiny.

Ms Trevelyan said: “Our UK-Australia trade deal is a landmark moment in the historic and vital relationship between our two commonwealth nations.

“This agreement is tailored to the UK’s strengths, and delivers for businesses, families, and consumers in every part of the UK – helping us to level up.”

The agreement gives UK firms guaranteed access to bid for an additional £10 billion worth of Australian public sector contracts per year and allows 18-35-year-olds to work and travel in Australia for up to three years at a time, removing previous visa conditions.

Service suppliers including architects, scientists, researchers, lawyers and accountants will have access to visas to work in Australia without being subject to the country’s changing skilled occupation list.

The deal is expected to increase trade with Australia by 53 per cent and boost the economy by £2.3 billion, the Department for International Trade said.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "We have not had a direct role in these negotiations and only saw the complete agreement and the UK Government’s Impact Assessment on Wednesday.

"This is unacceptable, as is the fact that the Scottish Parliament will have no say in scrutinising and approving this deal.”

The spokesperson added: “This deal will in no way compensate for the economic impact of Brexit. The UK Government’s own economic modelling suggested that this deal will increase UK GDP by a mere 0.08 per cent, while UK Government analysis has suggested that Brexit would lead to a 4.9 per cent contraction of UK GDP.”

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