Michael Gove has described international trade secretary Liz Truss as a “tough” and “shrewd” negotiator who will be looking to deliver “what’s best for Britain” with post-Brexit deals with other countries.
The former environment secretary was said to have been at loggerheads with Truss over a trade deal with Australia, fearing the impact it could have on farming in Scotland and Wales.
But when challenged on the impact of the deal, Gove struck a more conciliatory tone towards his cabinet colleague.
Asked whether the agreement sets a precedent for other deals, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s Liz Truss who’s negotiating these trade deals, and anyone who knows Liz knows that she’s not going to roll over when another country says ‘We want this particular concession or we want that particular arrangement just because you gave it to someone else’.
“She’s going to say ‘Look, I’m going to decide what’s best for Britain’.
“She is a tough, principled, shrewd and effective negotiator. I don’t think anyone would mistake Liz for a patsy.
“And so other countries shouldn’t imagine that in the negotiation of trade deals we will be anything other than determined to get the best deal for Britain’s producers, and also for UK consumers as well, because one of the things about trade deals is that overall they should reduce the costs that consumers face.”
Rejecting talk of cabinet splits, he said the government wants to take a “phased approach” to the Australian deal, and that such deals provide UK farmers with an opportunity to sell more abroad.
“It’s also the case that our producers – Scottish beef, Welsh lamb – produce food that is of the very highest quality. So bringing down trade barriers provides us with an opportunity for our brilliant farmers to sell more abroad as well.”
Appearing on Sky News, the minister claimed how Australian farmers operated had been “mischaracterised” during the discussion around the trade deal.
“Australia is a friend and ally.
“I think that there have been one or two points that have been made about Australia during the course of this debate that mischaracterise how Australian farmers operate and the opportunities also for UK farmers.
“So it’s important that we maintain protections and support for farmers, but it’s also the case that opening up trade barriers, bringing them down and opening up the opportunities, provides our farmers with the chance to show on the world stage the amazing quality of UK produce.”