Controversial Australia trade deal set to pass through parliament with no debate

Posted on July 18, 2022
Website Pic
  • New polling reveals four in five UK consumers think trade deals should be debated by Parliament -
  • Trade and green groups condemn government’s ‘shameless’ move to force through deal without debate or vote and call for extension of scrutiny period

New polling released today shows four in five UK consumers think trade deals should be debated by Parliament before they come into force [1] whilst a similar proportion (79%) of UK consumers agree it should be possible for Parliament to amend parts of trade agreements if it thinks there could be negative impacts on the UK.

The polling comes as the parliamentary process to examine the Australia trade deal is set to finish without debate or vote. Ministers will then ratify the deal in the autumn, when the trade bill passes.

In response to the polling and likely lack of debate, a coalition of trade and environmental groups has written to the Trade Secretary calling for the scrutiny period to be extended. In their letter, the groups denounce the lack of parliamentary time to consider the impact of the deal, citing complaints from parliamentary select committees and a recently released Freedom of Information request showing how significantly the food and farming sectors will be hit. The Government has ignored multiple requests from parliament to make time for the House of Commons to discuss the full impact of the deal.

The parliamentary trade committees exchanged angry letters with International Trade Secretary Anne Marie Trevelyan earlier this year [2], complaining they had not been given sufficient time to examine the deal.

The new polling commissioned by Trade Justice Movement and Global Justice Now and conducted by Yonder Consulting reveals:

  • 4 in 5 (78%) UK consumers agree trade deals should be debated by Parliament to discuss whether the positive and negative impacts before they come into force
  • 7 in 10 (70%) UK consumers think Parliament should be guaranteed a vote on whether or not it supports a trade deal
  • 4 in 5 (79%) UK consumers agree it should be possible for Parliament to amend parts of trade agreements if it thinks there could be negative impacts on the UK
  • 4 in 5 (83%) UK consumers think it is important the public are well informed about the potential impacts of a trade deal before it comes into force

Just last week, it was revealed that evidence of the deal’s full impact on UK food and farming had been withheld by the Government and that losses to the sectors would be even worse than previously predicted. Farming unions are worried about potential losses running into the hundreds of millions of pounds and thousands of jobs.

There are also concerns that the deal could accelerate deforestation to make way for agricultural land for cattle in Australia, increase levels of banned pesticides in food sold in the UK, increase antibiotic resistance and undermine the UK’s animal welfare standards. Peers have also called for the deal to be revisited so the climate provisions could be strengthened after the change of government in Australia.

Ruth Bergan, Director of the Trade Justice Movement said:

“This government has been absolutely shameless in ignoring calls from parliament for more scrutiny of this deal and has effectively run down the clock. But there is still time for parliament to make a difference. They should call for an emergency debate this week in order to extend the time to examine the deal. This is the UK’s first post Brexit trade deal and it deserves proper attention and scrutiny.

Nick Dearden, Director of Global Justice Now said:

“The UK stands on the brink of approving its first new trade deal for decades - one that will threaten thousands of British farming jobs - with barely a murmur in the House of Commons. It's astonishing that this hasn't been raised in the Conservative leadership contest, where two out of the top three candidates are current or former trade ministers.

“As this poll shows loud and clear, the public know that trade treaties contain major decisions for our society, and expect MPs to give them careful discussion and debate. It is time for all the candidates for our next prime minister to commit to this basic democratic norm.”

Supporting Quotes

Kath Dalmeny from Sustain said:

“ UK farmers are facing an uncertain future so it is remarkable that the government is racing to sign a trade deal that clearly threatens their livelihoods and that MPs won’t have a chance to ask questions. We know UK farmers will face unfair competition from Australian food produced using pesticides banned in the UK. Why is this not being debated? Parliamentarians should call a halt to this process until it has been scrutinised properly.”

Dr Nick Palmer, Head of Compassion in World Farming UK, said:

“The UK Government has long championed the first major post-Brexit trade deal, signed with Australia. Yet remarkably, they have swerved the last genuine chance to allow for MPs to debate the agreement in parliament – despite a number of select committee reports highlighting the terrible lack of scrutiny .

“Free trade agreements without adequate safeguards will negatively impact the UK’s current animal welfare standards for decades to come – completely undermining our hard-won regulations and seriously undercutting higher welfare, pasture-based farmers.

“In addition to significantly improving the level of scrutiny afforded to future trade agreements, the UK Government should also introduce a set of core standards for animal welfare and the environment that must be met for products to be included within the terms of any agreement.” This is essential to ensure this is the last bad deal signed by the UK and that the country’s animal welfare standards aren’t put further at risk.”

Sarah Williams of Greener UK said:

“This was a deal signed in a rush. The impact assessment was released after the agreement had been concluded, and key data about the impact on UK food and farming were withheld. Third party assessments have repeatedly revealed worrying consequences for the climate, deforestation and pesticide use.

“It’s therefore perhaps no surprise that the government appears reluctant to allow proper parliamentary scrutiny, but this would set a worrying precedent for more controversial deals ahead. There is still time for a good debate on this deal. We hope to see it happen.”



[1] Yonder Consulting, on behalf of Global Justice Now and the Trade Justice Movement, conducted an online poll of 2117 UK adults between the 13th and 14th July 2022. Results were weighted to be nationally representative of age, gender and region. Data tables available upon request.

[2] and