George Eustice and Liz Truss in row over post-Brexit trade deal with Australia

International trade secretary Liz Truss. Photograph: Parliament TV.

International trade secretary Liz Truss - Credit: Parliament TV

George Eustice and Liz Truss have reportedly rowed over a proposed trade deal between the UK and Australia.

The Financial Times reported environment secretary Eustice, along with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, were concerned about the potential impact of tariff-free access for Australian farmers on the British agricultural sector.

They have concerns the agreement would further stoke tensions over Scottish and Welsh independence because zero-tariff imports of Australian lamb and beef will most likely hit rural areas there the hardest.

Insiders opposed to the agreement claims that it would signal the "slow death of British farming".

But international trade secretary Truss and Brexit minister Lord Frost were reported to be on the other side of the "ferocious" internal battle - dismissing fears of political fallout and arguing it could expedite Britain’s push to join the broader trans-Pacific trade partnership.

Asked about the reports on Sky News, Eustice said there was a “balance to be struck” between opening up trade and protecting domestic industries.

“We think there’s great opportunities, we’re very keen for instance to pursue trade agreements with Australia and also with the United States and with other countries as well.

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“But always in any trade agreement, yes there’s a balance to be struck between your commercial interests and your desire to open up free markets.”

Eustice insisted he had "very good discussions" with colleagues, and would not be drawn further on the reports.

“I’m not going to get into discussions that are going on in government about individual trade agreements,” he explained.

“In any discussion on any part of government policy, and trade agreements are no exception, there’s a discussion and there’s a consensus.

“At the moment there’s a very clear consensus in government that we want to do a trade agreement with countries like Australia, but obviously on the right terms.”

He added: “I have very good discussions with all of my cabinet colleagues on all issues where we have got a shared agenda.”

The deal is worth 0.01 to 0.02% of the UK's GDP over the next 15 years.

The final decision is likely to fall with Boris Johnson - with insiders unsure which side the prime minister will agree with.

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