FARMERS have expressed concerns that animal welfare standards could be undermined by the UK’s newly announced free trade deal with Australia.

Boris Johnson insisted the pact, the first to be negotiated from scratch since Brexit, will benefit British farmers following fears from the sector that they could be undercut by cheaper imports.

However, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has called for more information on the protections for UK farming businesses, while also raising concerns over possible compromises on food standards.

NFU president Minette Batters said in a statement: “We will need to know more about any provisions on animal welfare and the environment to ensure our high standards of production are not undermined by the terms of this deal.

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“The ultimate test of this trade deal will be whether it contributes to moving farming across the world onto a more sustainable footing, or whether it instead undermines UK farming and merely exports the environmental and animal welfare impact of the food we eat.”

Similarly, animal welfare charity the RSPCA said that the agreement could set a “worrying precedent” and sought reassurance that standards on imports would be equivalent to that of the UK.

Chief executive Chris Sherwood warned that it is legal in Australia to mutilate the rear end of sheep, while chicken can be washed with chlorine and almost half of cattle are given growth hormones. He added: “The UK should be proud of its animal welfare standards and strive to maintain and improve them, but there’s a danger this is being sold out for the sake of a quick trade deal.”

Johnson said the trade agreement will adhere to the “strongest possible” animal welfare standards, while Morrison insisted that Australian standards were “very high”.

Downing Street also sought to ease concerns over animal welfare, telling reporters that hormone-fed beef will not be allowed to be sold in British supermarkets under the pact.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told Westminster reporters: “We are absolutely not compromising our high animal welfare and food safety standards.”

Elsewhere in the agreement, UK citizens under the age of 35 will be able to travel and work in Australia more freely, scrapping the requirement for farm work.

Previously, Britons under the age of 30 could work in Australia for two years and were required to spend time working in agriculture to do so, but those under 35 can work there for three years without this under the new deal.

However, further details of the free trade deal have so far been sparse, with the announcement by Downing Street lacking specifics on when the agreement comes into force and what other sectors are set to benefit.