FARMERS in our area who raise cattle or sheep have been given copious assurances by the national government that the new trade deal with Australia is nothing for them to worry about. So have consumers.

It is, however, a touch difficult to see how farmers are expected to compete with food sold by those who use cheap methods of mass production which have been rightly banned in this country.

UK farmers can’t routinely feed antibiotics to animals putting their future use for humans at risk. They can’t routinely use growth hormones. They can’t transport live animals for days. They can’t cage animals closely together beyond certain limits.

Few local farmers raise their cattle using battery farming techniques that see them never going out onto an open field and produce mountains of slurry. Australian farmers have permission to do any or all of these things.

Faced with promises that none of this will hit their income or force them to use methods they don’t like it would be nice if local farmers could feel confident that they can trust the assurances they are being given.

Just as businesses in Northern Ireland hoped that they could rely on the government when our Prime Minister promised them they would face no extra paperwork and could simply throw away any forms they were given.

Many in Northern Ireland are now finding that they are drowning in extra paperwork, rising costs and lost business.

The reality behind the promises to British farmers is that the Australia deal comes with harsh competition and an international court that can enforce decisions on the British parliament.

A new trade deal with the United States is expected to have an even greater impact.

Project fear is looking awfully like project reality.

Cllr Andy Brown

Green Party