UK-Australia trade deal

UK-Australia trade deal

The first "from-scratch" post-Brexit trade agreement, agreed with Australia, came into force on 31st May 2023. The process by which this agreement was negotiated and ratified served as a crucial example of the shortcomings of the UK's democratic infrastructure around trade policy. The ratification process saw the Government being accused by Parliament's International Trade Committee of "disrespecting Parliament" by dodging meaningful scrutiny, including seeking to avoid even a general debate on the terms of the agreement during the formal parliamentary ratification period. It fell to a Conservative MP to secure an urgent question to ensure that the FTA could even be debated by Parliament at all prior to its ratification.

This agreement has been subject to extensive criticism in the UK, particularly from environment and climate campaigners and from the agricultural sector. The Environment Secretary at the time of the negotiations, George Eustice, described the UK-Australia FTA as "not actually a very good deal for the UK", and one in which the UK gave away "far too much for far too little in return". During the Conservative leadership contest of 2022, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described the deal as "one-sided". Environmental groups set out a number of ways in which the agreement had failed

What is TJM calling for?

Trade agreements cover many aspects of our everyday lives, including food standards, the NHS and environmental rules. However we argue that neither the public nor Parliament have been given enough of a say in the process of agreeing such deals. We are calling for a democratic and transparent procedure for the negotiation and ratification of trade agreements.

"These are the UK’s first independent full free trade deals. The process of getting to this point has shown in no uncertain terms that the UK’s trade scrutiny processes are not fit for purpose."

Ruth Bergan, TJM Director
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