THE MINISTER for International Trade Nigel Huddleston said he was 'astounded' by a question made by a Cumbrian MP on protecting farmers in trade deals. 

The Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron spoke during a question in Parliament on increasing trade with African countries on June 29. 

He raised the controversial New Zealand and Australia deals which came into force on May 31. Bosses at the Farmers' Union said it was 'highly likely to favour Australia over the UK' due to Australian farmers abiding by different animal welfare laws. 

Mr Farron said: "As the Government rightly consider new trade deals with other countries, what lessons will they learn from the hideous mistakes made in the New Zealand and Australia trade deals?

“The right honourable member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), a former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, rightly said that they are bad deals for Britain.

READ MORE: What the Australia and New Zealand deals mean for shoppers, workers and farmers

“Given that British farmers are so angry with this Government, having been thrown under the bus on animal welfare and on environmental and cost issues, will he learn lessons from those mistakes and make sure British farmers are protected, and that environmental and animal welfare standards are protected, too?”

Mr Huddleston said: "I am, quite frankly, astounded by the honourable gentleman’s comments.

“He is well aware, as I have said repeatedly and is widely acknowledged, that the trade deals we have developed, including with Australia and New Zealand, are economically beneficial right across the UK, including in his constituency.

“If he does not wish to support policies that are in the best economic interests of his constituency, that is something his constituents probably need to recognise come the next election.”

Mr Farron said after the session: "The minister is clearly not living in the real world.

“If he seriously thinks the trade deals with Australia and New Zealand are good for our area, I would invite him to come up to Westmorland and listen to the many farmers who are apoplectic that they have been sold down the river by his Government.”

Mr von Westenhol, director of trade at the National Farmers' Union said: "Lower production costs and weaker standards will see the introduction of more competitive Australian imports that will become completely tariff-free after 15 years.

“Asking UK farmers to go toe-to-toe whilst maintaining their sustainability, environmental and animal welfare commitments significantly risks the longevity of the UK agricultural sector in the future.”