Boris Johnson is ‘caught in the EU’s web’ – his 15-year schedule will kill Australia deal
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And he has even suggested Mr Johnson was trying to “kill” the deal to avoid setting the UK on a collision course with Brussels. Mr Habib was speaking after International Trade Secretary Liz Truss offered Australia a deal whereby both countries would phase out taxes on imports over a 15-year period.
In doing so she has ignored the concerns of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), which has warned freeing up the UK-Australian trade in meat will result in hundreds of British cow and sheep breeders going bust.
Express.co.uk understands Mrs Truss is at odds with Environment Secretary George Eustice and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove on the subject, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson having apparently ruled in her favour.
However, Mr Habib said ultimately the problems stemmed from the deal which Mr Johnson signed in 2019 to take the UK out of the bloc in the first place because its terms mean Britain was not free to do away with tariffs and quotas altogether, but instead has to phase them in.
Mr Habib told Express.co.uk: “The UK’s failure so far to do a tariff and quota-free trade deal with Australia has nothing to do with the threat this would pose to British farmers.
“It is not because Remainers are putting a spanner in the works.
“It is a direct result of the lousy Withdrawal Agreement (WA), Boris’s Irish Sea border and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) with the EU.”
Mr Habib added: “Liz Truss has done a brilliant job rolling over trade agreements with countries which previously had deals with the EU. But her successes are limited to rollovers of EU deals.
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“The proposed trade agreement with Australia would have been her first genuine new trade deal. It was her first test of a post-Brexit British trade policy.”
Mr Habib said he feared ongoing restrictions as a result of the UK’s need to adhere to EU rules and regulations would result in a sub-standard agreement if indeed one was struck at all.
He warned: “Even though Australia is our seventh-largest trading partner, a member of the Commonwealth, culturally, politically and even constitutionally joined to us at the hip we are about to fail in this relatively simple endeavour.
“The reason for our failing to reach terms with Australia is because a genuinely free trade deal would require diverging from EU regulations.
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“The UK Government fears divergence. It does so because the WA and TCA tie us into the EU’s regulatory framework. Divergence would come at a heavy price.”
He explained: “The first price to pay would be as a result of the level playing field commitments we have made.
“Diverge from these and we would find ourselves having sanctions levied upon us. These would be levied ahead of any arbitration process had reached a decision – highly unusual and penal.
“The second price would be as a result of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The greater the divergence of Great Britain from the EU, the more pronounced would the border in the Irish Sea become.
“At the moment, the Government is under considerable pressure to completely adopt EU food standards.
“That would be the only way to mask the main trade impact of Boris’s Irish Sea border. But do that and bang would go a trade deal with Australia.
“In fact, bang would go an independent trade policy, and deals with very nearly all, if not all, of the UK’s natural trading partners, including most importantly the United States of America.”
Mr Habib, a persistent critic of Mr Johnson who earlier this year called for him to resign over his willingness to sign up for the Northern Ireland Protocol.
He added: “The Prime Minister’s suggestion of a 15-year transition period for the Aussie deal is not born out of a desire to protect British farmers. It is born out a desire to kill the Aussie deal.
“Our negotiations with Australia are failing because we remain in the regulatory web of the EU.
“A failed deal with Australia would reveal yet again the Prime Minister’s failure to Get Brexit Done.”
Express.co.uk has approached the Department for International Trade for comment.
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