Britain's Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch hailed the resumption Wednesday of free trade with Australia and New Zealand after a hiatus of 50 years during which Britain was in the European Union. File photo by Neil Hall/EPA-EFE
May 31 (UPI) -- Britain's flagship post-Brexit free trade deals with New Zealand and Australia came into force Wednesday, lifting tariffs on exports, opening up market access for services, and easing bureaucratic hurdles on digital trade and work visas.
International Trade Minister Nigel Huddleston saw off two commemorative consignments of the best of "Made in Britain" from DHL's logistics center near London's Heathrow Airport being shipped to his Australian and New Zealand counterparts.
Among the items were Beano comics signed by editor John Anderson, Penderyn single malt Welsh whisky, Brighton Gin, bags from The Cambridge Satchel Company and Fever-Tree cocktail mixers.
"Today is a historic moment as our first trade deals to be negotiated post-Brexit come into effect," said Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch. "Businesses up and down the country will now be able to reap the rewards of our status as an independent trading nation and seize new opportunities, driving economic growth, innovation and higher wages."
The deal also extends the age limit on an existing young adult 12-month Australia work visa from 30 to 35 years old from July 1 and allows holders to stay for three years starting July 1, 2024.
However, the deals have been criticized as one-sided agreements that favor Australia and New Zealand to the disadvantage of Britain -- by the government's own estimate, the Australia deal will add just 0.08%, or $2.84 billion, to GDP by 2035.
Brexiteer former minister George Eustice said the agreement with Australia was not a very good deal for Britain and previously told the House of Commons "the U.K. gave away far too much for far too little in return."
The deals have met with particular criticism from consumer groups and the farming sector which says the deals are bad for the country and undermine the food and animal husbandry standards British consumers have come to expect.
Which? magazine's consumer rights and food policy head Sue Davies said research showed people wanted trade deals that prioritized "high food, product safety, data protection and environmental standards."
The National Farmers Union said that for sensitive sectors like beef and lamb, dairy and horticulture, in time, there will be no limit on imports from Australia and New Zealand with little benefit for British farmers in return.
"U.K. farm businesses face significantly higher production costs than farmers in Australia and New Zealand, and margins are likely to tighten further in the face of rising input costs, higher energy bills and labor shortages, said NFU President Minette Batters.
"While it is reassuring that these deals will not result in a change in our food safety standards here -- for example, imports of hormone-reared beef will still be banned -- we must ensure that the government's commitment to uphold the U.K.'s food safety standards in all deals it negotiates remains unwavering."