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Labour humiliated after Emily Thornberry said UK food exported to Australia ‘will go off’

Australia trade deal a 'practice run' for UK says expert

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Britain and Australia announced a free trade deal on Tuesday evening. The UK Government hailed the “ambitious” agreement as an important step in building new trade relationships following its departure from the EU. Britain said cars, Scotch whisky and confectionery would be cheaper to sell in Australia as a result of the deal, which removes tariffs and reduces red tape.

On the other hand, Australia said it was a “great win” for Australian agriculture.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I think this is important economically, there’s no question about that … but I think it’s more important politically and symbolically.

“We’re opening up to each other and this is the prelude to a general campaign of opening up around the world.”

As the deal marks a new dawn for Brexit Britain, unearthed reports reveal how Shadow International Trade Secretary, Emily Thornberry made an embarrassing gaffe when asked about the UK’s future trade with Australia.

At a hustings organised by the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) during the 2017 general election campaign, Ms Thornberry said: “Things like our food industry, you can’t export it to Australia because it will go off.”

She appeared to be unaware that, according to the Food and Drink Federation, Britain exported £337.7million worth of food and drink to Australia in 2016, up 12.4 percent on the previous year.

Focusing further on the food industry, Ms Thornberry also claimed that British food would go off if Britain left the EU customs union.

She said: “It needs to be able to move smoothly across Europe without there being points of origin checks.

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“Without us having Dover as a massive great lorry park whilst everything is checked through and so forth.

“So I am very concerned.

“I’m very concerned about the practical effects of us leaving the single market but also about us leaving the customs union.”

Ms Thornberry, asked to clarify her remarks about the difficulties of trading with Australia, said after the hustings: “You could hardly sell breaded chicken breasts, you know.”

When the interviewer told her about New Zealand lamb being sold in the UK, Ms Thornberry insisted: “I appreciate that.

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“But that’s why I mean processed food, which is that much more complicated and you get ingredients from all over.”

Criticising Ms Thornberry after the gaffe, Conservative MP and former chairman of the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee Neil Paris said: “Yet again, Emily Thornberry is completely out of touch with reality.

“Australia is already our 12th biggest export market for food and drink and demand is growing fast – because our great British food makes it Down Under in perfect condition.

“These comments would be funny but it is no laughing matter that Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry could be negotiating Brexit just 11 days after polling day.

“If they don’t think we can export food around the world, they would make an absolute meal of the Brexit negotiations – and we would all pay the price.”

At the end of last month, Ms Thornberry called an urgent debate in Parliament over the details of the UK-Australia trade deal that was being thrashed out by International Trade Secretary Liz Truss.

Ms Thornberry attacked the proposed trade agreement alleging that unfettered access for Australian beef could harm British farmers.

Trade Minister Greg Hands told MPs that the Shadow International Trade Secretary had to explain why she was opposed to such a trade deal with Australia, a “key Commonwealth, Five Eyes and like-minded trade ally of the United Kingdom”.

He continued: “She did not complain, Mr Speaker, at the zero tariffs, zero quota access for EU beef and lamb which had no staging on it at all.

“Why does she do so for Australia?

“I believe her real problem is this: she still wants to remain in or rejoin the EU.”

Earlier in the debate, Ms Thornberry accused the Government of “rushing through” the deal ahead of the G7 summit.

She said: “We cannot support a deal on agricultural tariffs that will cost jobs in our farming communities, undercut our food standards, increase our carbon offshoring and open the door to the destruction of our farming industry through further lopsided trade deals.”


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