Beef Over Beef: Rumours of UK Cabinet Rift Over Untaxed Australian Meat Imports


Tensions within the Conservative Party in the UK are bubbling ahead of a Cabinet ministers’ meeting on Thursday. The sticking point between the politicians is UK-Australia tariff-free trade.

UK Environment Secretary George Eustice and Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, who don’t sympathise with the idea, have reportedly been at loggerheads with Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Brexit Minister Lord Frost, who support tariff-free access for Australian farmers to the UK.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was questioned by the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford about the impact of the deal on Scottish farmers.

In return, Johnson dismissed the criticism and suggested that British farmers “make the most of free trade”.

​Johnson’s signal of support for a UK-Australia FTA would be welcomed by Trade Secretary Liz Truss, who led the first round of negotiations for an FTA in June 2020 with the Australian minister for trade, tourism, and investment, Simon Birmingham.

Ministers Gove and Eustice, on the other hand, reportedly believe in a deal with tougher restrictions than what the Australian side is pushing for, such as a five-year slashing of all import taxes on their beef and lamb heading to Britain.

Eustice told reporters that the government is for a trade deal “with countries like Australia, but obviously on the right terms”.

The UK National Farmers Union (NFU) has expressed concern over the tariff-free imports of Australian beef and lamb, suggesting that “many British farmers – especially those who rear beef cattle and sheep – would simply not be able to compete”.

​Despite the rumoured rift, the Cabinet plans to reach a decision on the details of the deal on Thursday.

According to the UK government, a trade deal with Australia would be one of the first major trade agreements pursued by a post-Brexit UK. In June, the British leadership will be meeting with their Australian counterparts at the G7 summit in Cornwall, where the two sides are expected to discuss a finalised deal.


Beef Over Beef: Rumours of UK Cabinet Rift Over Untaxed Australian Meat Imports

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