Josh Cameron on UK free trade

Josh Cameron writes at Conservative Home:

For free trade advocates who have chaffed as the UK stood mired in the bog of EU protectionism, witnessing the ‘sprint to the finish’ for trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand is a thrilling experience.

While both antipodean nations have used the decades since they lost meaningful access to the British market to carve out remarkable export opportunities elsewhere, it will still be welcome to see the UK reopen door.

It is that history that makes the feverish opposition from the UK’s most recent proponents of ‘Project Fear’ – the National Farmers Union and their political outriders – so aggravating. With a flair for melodramatic self-pity that could rival Prince Harry in an Oprah interview, the NFU and chums have spent the post-referendum years churning out predictions of doom as they attempt to stop the UK’s agricultural sector facing any new domestic competition.

Love the Prince Harry comparison!

The British public has been told that trade deals with Australia and New Zealand will lead to agricultural Armageddon. Emotive claims predict food security catastrophes, a countryside of factory farms, increased farmer suicides, the end of ‘Wales being Wales’ and, most recently, the UK’s landscape being turned into a new Australian outback.

No reasonable observer could believe that increasing imports of antipodean protein from ‘tiny’ to ‘incredibly small’ could turn the Lake District into a desert or cause Wales to disappear. The main impact of these claims is to fuel the belief that the British agricultural sector is headed into a period of terminal, if managed, decline. This needn’t be the case.

The worst part of the NFU’s ‘Project Fear’ isn’t the denigration of antipodean agriculture or the entitled disregard for the interests of the British consumer. It is their complete lack of faith in their own member’s ability to adapt and thrive in a globally competitive market.

NZ farmers are the living proof that you thrive when you don’t have subsidies and tarriff barriers.

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