On Monday night it was Australian wine and British lamb that fuelled the agreement of a UK-Australia free trade deal between prime ministers Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison. The dinner proved to be a highly satisfying meal for both parties, marking the first new trade deal Britain has made since leaving the European Union almost five years ago.
The deal delivers on a wide array of goods, from biscuits and cars to whisky, technology, financial services and youth working visas. Importantly, it is not just an elite-driven effort. The deal appears popular with the public. Recent polling by the Adam Smith Institute and CT Group suggests that 65 per cent of Brits back the Australian and UK deal, while 5 per cent are opposed. The deal has majority-backing across the political spectrum as well as in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
The polling also found that Brits are genuinely excited about the prospect of consuming more Australian products, having freer movement and recognising qualifications. They are also interested in the prospects of the economic boost from the trade deal, one that will no doubt create jobs and global opportunities for British industry.
Unfortunately, much media coverage of the deal has been bittersweet. The media has given endless broadcast hours and column inches to farming lobby groups. The opponents of the deal have been quick to frame the deal as an attack on British institutions and some parts of the country in particular, such as Scotland. In reality, the AU-UK deal, by removing barriers and cutting tariffs in products from Scottish Salmon to whisky, will only boost British businesses and strengthen relations. It will most importantly expand consumer choice right across the nation.
The strong popular support for the deal does not reflect apathy towards the “plight” of British farmers. In fact it reflects a strong belief in the ability of Brits to compete on the global stage, to produce a high quality product at a reasonable price. The aforementioned polling found that 64 per cent of British people believe that farmers should compete on an equal basis with foreign competitors. This is a testament to the public’s faith and pride in our farmers. Our belief is that the agricultural industry will not only survive this deal but thrive due to it.
In any case, Australia and the UK are two of the world’s greatest democracies – we cannot allow ourselves to be bullied into silence and out of such an opportunity because of a vocal minority. We certainly cannot let this minority block out coverage of the other industries and people that this deal will positively impact.
Personally as a British young adult, I am most looking forward to the opportunities this deal provides young people across the UK and Australia. After such a long period locked down in the UK, a deal which makes it easier and cheaper for people to study, work and live in Australia is exciting.
Before the deal, many professionals who hoped to work in Australia were prevented from doing so due to additional conversion exams needed to practice their trade. These exams were off-putting, time-consuming and utterly pointless. For people working in sectors like nursing, this deal will grant them the opportunity to move between countries and maximise their careers.
The public support this deal between Australia and the UK. We are ready to build Global Britain, embrace free trade and strengthen relations with our mates across the sea. I may just be partial to Tim Tams, but trade deals have never tasted so sweet.