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BORIS Johnson has been accused of talking “tripe” about his government’s trade deal with Australia after he denied selling out Scottish farmers.
The UK Government wants to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership with countries including Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand.
Farmers and animal welfare campaigners are concerned the deal with Australia will lead to cheaper imports undercutting Scottish meat, which is produced to higher standards.
Ian Blackford, who argued the matter should be put to a vote in the Commons, said the Westminster government was “literally giving the farm away” and said crofters had been shoved “under the Brexit bus”.
After being accused to talking “tripe”, Johnson made a quip about haggis, describing it as “a valuable part of Scottish tradition”.
Blackford dubbed the UK’s trade deal with Australia “disastrous”, adding: “For all the spin it’s clear that his Tory Government has just thrown Scottish farmers and crofters under their Brexit bus, just as they sold out our fishing community.”
He stated: “Can the Prime Minister confirm that from day one of this deal 35,000 tonnes of Australian beef and 25,000 tonnes Australian lamb will be free to flood the UK market tariff free?”
Johnson replied: “This is a great deal for the UK, it’s a great deal for Scotland … how absolutely tragic that it should be the posture of the SNP to see absolutely no way in which Scottish farmers could be able to take advantage of the opportunities to export around the [world].”
The SNP Westminster leader fired back: ”My goodness, I don’t even think the Prime Minister can believe that tripe.”
He continued: “In the Tories’ desperation to get a post-Brexit trade deal with somebody, with anybody, they’ve given the farm away, literally. It is blindingly obvious who are the winners and who are the losers in this deal.
“Australia’s economy will benefit to the tune of 1.3 billion dollars a year, the UK Government’s own assessment is the Australian deal is worth just and I quote 0.02% of GDP. You would need 200 Australian deals to come close to mitigating the cost of Brexit.”
He added: “We were told that Brexit was all about taking back control but for our farmers and for our crofters there’s been no scrutiny, there’s been no consultation and there’s been no consent. So if the Prime Minister is really confident about the benefits of this deal does he have the guts to put it to a vote in this House?”
Johnson again dismissed the concerns, stating: “The people of this country voted for this Government to get on and deliver free trade deals around the world and I believe they were totally right.”
He added: “He [Blackford] talks about tripe, well I can him that when it comes to when it comes to exporting the intestines of sheep – which I know is a valuable part of Scottish tradition – even that is now being opened up around the world thanks to the deals this country is doing.”
The Tory leader faced further scrutiny from other SNP MPs, including the party’s deputy Westminster leader Kirsten Oswald.
She said the deal “means undercutting our farmers, short-changing consumers, and will set animal welfare standards back by decades”.
The SNP parliamentarian quoted statements from the RSPCA that said the deal will “start a race to the bottom and the losers will be millions of farmed animals and UK farmers” and asked if the Prime Minister accepted their views, or if he thought he “knew better”.
Marion Fellows went with the same line, quoting criticism from the National Farmers Union Scotland about the deal bemoaning a lack of long-term assurances for the sector.
Johnson replied that Scotland deserved MPs that would “champion” the agriculture industry and talked up alleged benefits to the whisky and financial services sector from the deal.
He added: “I really think that these constant attacks on Australia and their animal welfare standards will be very much resented by the people of Australia, they would not be recognised actually.
“Australia [was given] a five out of five , the highest possible, by the World Organization of Animal Health performance evaluations for animal welfare. This deal that we’ve done is the first ever to incorporate high animal welfare status standards as part of the package Australia has agreed.”