Byline TV went to Swindon to talk to farmers that had concern over Brexit and the ramifications for the Australian Free Trade Agreement. Some farmers and MPs believe the competition to their own products once Australia gains tariff-free access to the UK market will have dire implications on British farming.
Tom Collins, a farmer from Wiltshire voted for Brexit hoping that the change would allow him to develop his business, however he is now worried that the less-than desirable FTA with Australia is just a template for further agreements. “This new deal with Australia is really the testing deal, the trial one for others with the USA and Canada.” says Collins, “It’s a worrying time for farming, we are going through a big changing period.” The FTA with Australia will mark the first trade deal between the UK post its departure from the EU, and as a result it will set the precedent for further agreements with agricultural giants such as the USA.
“Once these generations go, and they already have considerably shrunk in the last 20 years, you won’t have the same expertise that has been handed on from generation to generation.” warned Liz Webster, another farmer and chair of Save British Farming who campaigned to remain. Her and many in the agricultural community fear that an FTA with Australia and other countries that do not possess the same standards regulations on issues like hormone growth, pesticides and feed additives will force the UK to industrialise its produce based on efficiency rather than quality. “[We’re going to be] largely like America – Instead of there being these cute British farms, it’ll be just industrial factories.”
Though the farming community was mixed in its vote during the 2016 EU referendum, many are unhappy with the current government’s handling of Brexit. “The Conservatives in their manifesto made false promises. They said they wouldn’t do anything like shatter our standards or harm our countryside, and yet in practice we now know that is exactly what they’re going to do” said Webster, who believes the British public should have been told categorically of the implications of Brexit on the countryside and the industry of farming.
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