Australia-Britain free-trade agreement risks delays after Anne-Marie Trevelyan no-show

London: Australian meat producers and younger people wanting to holiday and work in the UK for longer could face delays in accessing the British market after a huge political row over the trade deal erupted in Westminster.

The furore came just hours after prime ministers Anthony Albanese and Boris Johnson met for the first time, on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid, and said they hoped the deal would come into effect soon.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at a bilateral meeting, during Albanese’s trip to the NATO leaders’ summit in Madrid, Spain, on Wednesday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at a bilateral meeting, during Albanese’s trip to the NATO leaders’ summit in Madrid, Spain, on Wednesday.Credit:Alex Elinghausen

Albanese told Johnson that Labor supported the Australian-UK-US pact (AUKUS) and expressed “our hope that the free-trade agreement comes into force this year,” adding that it was “very important for both our countries”.

“We’re shoulder-to-shoulder,” Johnson agreed.

But that is now looking unlikely after the British parliament’s commons trade committee told MPs they should delay ratifying the agreement after a late-night snub by Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

British Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan arrives at Downing Street in London last year.

British Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan arrives at Downing Street in London last year.Credit:Getty Images

Trevelyan, who took over the role from Foreign Secretary Liz Truss after the deal was brokered, told the oversight committee just after 10pm on Tuesday (Wednesday AEST) that she would no longer attend Wednesday’s long-scheduled meeting.

Trevelyan claimed an announcement on steel tariffs was the reason she could not give evidence to the group of cross party MPs.

Chair Angus MacNeil convened MPs to express their disgust at her absence.

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