Boris Johnson’s farm deal on Brexit compared to Highland Clearances
Boris Johnson’s free trade deal with Australia could wreak havoc on a large scale with the Highland Clearances, a former Scottish government minister has said.
Scottish farmers fear that a free trade deal with the Commonwealth nation could prevent small family farms from competing with a flood of cheap food imports.
National Farmers Union Scotland President Martin Kennedy said last week that any deal giving unfettered access to the UK market would be seen as a “betrayal” of the industry.
Former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill spoke of the memory of the Highland clearances by questioning UK ministers on the issue today.
The Alba MP said: “Over 200 years ago the Highland Clearances saw people shamefully replaced by sheep for owner profit, now this trade deal threatens to supplant those sheep with cheap imports for conservative dogma.
“What does it say about this Tory government that they don’t even care about Scottish sheep, let alone Scottish breeders and farmers.”
Trade Minister Greg Hands ignored the comments, telling MPs British farmers should be “positive and not fearful” of the free trade deal.
Mr Hands said the deal would represent a “major prize” for the UK’s newly independent trade policy.
He added to the Commons: “It will be a lot for the UK and our farmers will continue to thrive. The agreement is a gateway to the vast CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) free trade area in Asia and the Pacific, opening doors for our farmers in some of the world’s largest economies. today and tomorrow.
“Our food is among the best in the world and incredibly competitive. We need to be positive, not fearful, about the opportunities that exist for our agriculture and our farmers. “
Mr Hands continued, “Any deal we do will maintain protections for our farmers, any liberalization will be phased over time, and any deal is likely to include safeguards to defend against import surges.”
The minister also targeted the SNP, accusing the party of being “isolationist”.
He said: ‘Never in 20 years has the SNP supported any trade carried out by the UK or the EU, even though key sectors of the Scottish economy like whiskey, like clothing, like fishing , depend on trade.
“I don’t think whatever assurances I gave him today he and the SNP would support this deal, when it comes to trade the SNP is isolationist and against Scotland’s best interests.