Badenoch slaps down opposition as UK set for £10.4bn Brexit deal

UK-Australia trade deal 'is a win-win' says panellist

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Kemi Badenoch has slapped down opposition to the UK’s trade deal with Australia, signed last year. Earlier this month, former environment secretary George Eustice said the agreement, which will bring in £10.4bn, “was not actually a very good deal” as the UK “gave away far too much for far too little in return”. But speaking to the International Trade Committee, Ms Badenoch defended the deal.

Referring to Mr Eustice’ comments, she told MPs: “I disagreed with what he said about it not being a good deal for the country.

“That is absolutely not true. I do think deadlines can be incredibly unhelpful in negotiations. We saw this with Brexit.”

Asked if she would have negotiated the same deal with Australia, she rejected the premise of the question that the UK had conceded ground on the deal.

She said: “We haven’t given anything away”, adding that trade negotiations are not “tit-for-tat” or “zero sum”.

Ms Badenoch added: “The deal isn’t even in place yet and we’re already talking it down.”

The International Trade Secretary also denied there were tensions between Defra and the Department for International Trade, saying: “George Eustice said that this was a good deal.

“He may have said something different, but he is disagreeing with himself as much as he is disagreeing with any other department.”

The deal was signed in December 2021 by the then International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

According to Government estimates, the deal will unlock £10.4billion of additional trade.

The Department for International Trade described the deal as being a “gateway into the fast-growing Indo-Pacific region”, claiming it will “boost” the UK’s bid to join CPTPP.

The CPTPP is a trade area which covers £8.4trillion of GDP and 11 Pacific nations from Australia to Mexico.

Criticising the deal, former Environment Secretary George Eustice told the House of Commons: “Unless we recognise the failures the Department for International Trade made during the Australia negotiations, we will not be able to learn the lessons for future negotiations.

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“The first step is to recognise that the Australia trade deal is not actually a very good deal for the UK, which was not for lack of trying on my part.”

Mr Eustice also used his speech to call for the Department for International Trade’s top civil servant, Crawford Falconer, to be sacked.

He accused Mr Falconer of accepting concessions to Australian negotiators “often when they were against UK interest”.

The former minister said now “a good opportunity to move on and get a different type of negotiator in place – somebody who understand British interests better than he has been able to.”

He also told MPs that he “no longer has to put such a positive gloss on what was agreed” now he is no longer a serving minister.

In response, a source close to Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch said: “With more than 25 years’ experience, Crawford is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading experts on global free trade and is doing an exemplary job.

“The deal we’ve done with Australia – which was collectively agreed to by a cabinet that included George Eustice himself – is set to unlock more than £10billion of trade.

“Australia and NZ have huge markets in Asia and do not use their tariff-free allocations.

“The former environment secretary is mistaken in his attack – this deal will not damage British farming.”

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