THE National Farmers Union (NFU) says it would support a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Australia, provided there was balance between inclusion of safeguards and protecting farmers' livelihoods.

With trade talks between the UK and Australia/New Zealand reaching an advanced stage, there have been media reports that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's cabinet has been split over the impact of the FTA on UK farmers.

NFU president, Minette Batters, said she and other industry bodies from all over the UK – as part of the UK Farming Roundtable – has set out five principles that they think the government has to follow.

She added: "“We know that agriculture is almost always the last chapter to be finalised in any trade deal, and as these talks reach an advanced stage its important negotiators take on board the five detailed principles agreed."

Those principles include upholding high standards of production and positioning the UK as a global leader in sustainable farming and in tackling climate change; recognising the specific sensitivities of some UK farming sectors; balancing improved access and lower tariffs for agricultural imports with quotas and other safeguards; ensuring any trade deal is genuinely reciprocal and establishing precedents for future deals.

However, late on Wednesday, the NFU released an update after media reports from the trade talks.

It said: "We have heard a number of claims about the negligible effects an Australian/UK trade deal will have on farmers, including this latest claim in a letter to MPs from the Australian High Commissioner that there is “no possibility” of beef or lamb flooding the UK market.

"In this case, there should be no objection to quotas forming part of the deal as they clearly believe they will be unable to fill them.

"We believe that, in order to verify projections of the limited impact of a deal, review clauses should be included.

"In the event that the Australian government’s projections are right, and there is no harm to UK farmers, then any agreed liberalisation can continue.

"Given the confidence of the Australian’s economic assessment, we presume they will have no problem accepting such review clauses.

"We also note that the 15 bilateral or plurilateral FTAs Australia is a signatory to, referred to in the letter, do not involve complete tariff liberalisation and include agricultural safeguards above which tariffs apply.

"We take this as an indication that such safeguards will be included in an Australia/UK FTA.

"The NFU supports the conclusion of an FTA between Australia and the UK, so long as appropriate safeguards are included that balance liberalisation with protecting UK farmers’ livelihoods."