The Holyrood trade minister, Ivan McKee, has hit out at the UK Government after a briefing for the devolved administrations on the UK’s new trade deal was delayed because “not enough of the deal is nailed down”.
Mr McKee revealed he and colleagues from the Welsh and Northern Irish Governments were due to be given more details of the detail on Tuesday morning.
But he tweeted he was “very interested to read so much informed coverage” of the agreement.
Mr McKee claimed: “I was due to be briefed by the UK Gov along with ministers from Wales and NI this morning, but our call has been put back until much later because we were told, ‘not enough of the deal is nailed down’.”
Mr McKee stated: “The Scottish Government has seen no details of the agreement reached with the Australian government.
“We have had no role in the negotiations on tariffs and quotas despite regularly pressing the UK Government for this.
“What we do know, however, is that this deal does not even remotely undo the damage to our economy caused by Brexit. The UK Government’s own scoping assessment said a deal with Australia would only be worth a 0.02% increase in GDP over 15 years – and that agriculture and semi-processed food sectors would lose out.
“By comparison, the Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that a trade deal with the EU would mean the UK’s GDP would be 4% lower in the long run compared with remaining in the EU.”
He said it was “essential” that a full impact assessment of Australia trade deal be carried out as he warned it could be “damaging for farmers and crofters”.
His comments came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that “the deal is done” as he insisted British farmers will benefit from new arrangements – which are the first to be negotiated from scratch since Brexit.
Mr Johnson said it was “good news” for services and manufacturers in the UK, with British products such as cars, Scottish whisky and confectionary set to be cheaper to sell to Australia because of the tariff-free agreement.
The Prime Minister and his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, announced the agreement on Tuesday despite concerns from British farmers that they could be undercut by cheaper imports.
The UK Government, however, has said that British farmers will be protected by a cap on tariff-free imports for 15 years, using tariff rate quotas and other safeguards.
And Scottish Secretary, Alister Jack, stated that “measures to protect the UK’s agriculture industry and maintain high standards will also help Scottish farmers make the most of international opportunities opened up by this deal”.
Mr Jack insisted the “extensive” new trade agreement was “very welcome news for Scotland and the whole of the UK”.
He said: “Australia is the world’s eighth largest market for Scotch whisky exports, worth £113 million last year. The removal of tariffs presents a fantastic opportunity for our iconic distilleries.
“Scotland’s financial services, manufacturing and pharmaceutical sectors will also receive a boost.”
But Deidre Brock, the SNP environment, food and rural affairs spokeswoman at Westminster, hit out: “The interests of Scottish farmers and crofters have been completely side-lined by the Tory Government throughout these negotiations – and there remain serious concerns over the negative impact this deal will have on Scotland’s agricultural industry.”
She insisted Scotland had been “kept in the dark and not consulted” during discussions with Australian ministers.
“There is no evidence of any meaningful protections to prevent Scottish farmers being undercut on the price and standards of beef, lamb and other produce,” the MP said.
“Yet again, the Tories are throwing Scottish farmers under the Brexit bus – just as they sold out Scotland’s fishing industry.”
Ms Brock insisted: “The UK Government must publish the full details of the deal without delay, allow proper parliamentary scrutiny, and ensure meaningful consultation with the Scottish Government, and Scotland’s food and drink sector, to prevent disastrous consequences.”
And she claimed: “The Australia deal also has worrying implications for future trade deals. There is the very real danger that other larger economies will demand tariff-free exports to the UK, further undercutting Scottish farmers and lowering UK food standards with imports of hormone beef, chlorine chicken, ractopamine pork and other Frankenfoods.”