Lord Botham slaps down George Eustice over ‘factually incorrect’ Brexit trade deal claim

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Former cricketer and crossbench member of the House of Lords Ian Botham has slammed former Environment Secretary George Eustice for criticising the Brexit trade deal with Australia. Since returning to the backbenches of the Conservative Party in September, Mr Eustice has claimed the trade agreement was not in the UK’s “economic interest”. By contrast, Lord Botham hailed the deal as a huge “success” and questioned why the former Environment Secretary had not aired his concerns during his time in Cabinet.

During a November meeting in the House of Commons, Mr Eustice said: “Since I now enjoy the freedom of the back benches, I no longer have to put such a positive gloss on what was agreed.

“The first step is to recognise that the Australia trade deal is not actually a very good deal for the UK, which was not for lack of trying on my part.”

He added: “Overall, the truth of the matter is that the UK gave away far too much for far too little in return.

“We did not actually need to give Australia nor New Zealand full liberalisation of beef and sheep. It was not in our economic interest to do so. And neither Australia nor New Zealand had anything to offer in return for such a grand concession.”

Asked for his thoughts on the comments of Mr Eustice, Lord Botham told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I was surprised when he said that, but he didn’t say it when he was in the Cabinet, did he? I wonder why?”

Lord Botham, who has been the UK Trade Envoy to Australia since August 2021, added: “From what I have seen – and I am actually out there doing it, [I’ve done] four trips now – I have to tell you, it’s been a success.

“So I thought it was a very strange thing to come out with.

“To be quite frank, unnecessary because I don’t think it’s factually right.”

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