Liz Truss will hold talks with New Zealand negotiators on Thursday as she seeks to pave the way for a trade deal with the country in a matter of weeks.
The Trade Secretary’s Kiwi counterpart, Damien O’Connor, flew to Britain on Wednesday and the pair had dinner, ahead of direct talks due to be held in the Locarno Room of the Foreign Office. It is the first time they have met in person.
A deal with New Zealand is seen as a clear next step after Britain and Australia announced the outline of an agreement on Tuesday.
The tie-up with Wellington is expected to follow similar broad strokes to the Australian deal – prising open the country for UK goods and services, but opening up British markets to exports sent by New Zealand farmers.
A source at the Department for International Trade said: “We want to keep the momentum going that’s been created by the Aussie deal. The agreement will be similar in shape to Australia – so fundamentally liberalising, high standard and advanced in areas like services, reflecting our shared values and the kinship between our two countries.
“The New Zealanders will need to give us much more on mobility, investment and services if they want an agreement, and Liz will be driving a hard bargain on that.”
Government officials emphasised that any deal signed will maintain protections for UK farmers. The immediate economic benefits of a deal with New Zealand are likely to be negligible.
The Government’s own analysis said the GDP impact over 15 years would be “close to zero” compared with not having a deal.
However, Britain is seeking to show the world it is a free trading nation and it is hoped that larger and more lucrative deals will follow.
The outline of the Australian deal met a frosty reception by many British farmers, who warned a gradual phasing-out of tariffs and quotas could leave the UK vulnerable to a flood of Aussie beef.
The backlash continued on Wednesday, with Peter Hardwick from the British Meat Processors’ Association saying an influx of high-end cuts from Down Under could “skim the top off our home market and have a very negative effect on returns”.
Lord Frost outside Downing Street earlier this year
It comes as Lord Frost asked the European Commission for an extension to a looming EU sausage ban in Northern Ireland to deescalate the threat of a trade battle with Brussels.
He insisted not a single British sausage had entered the Single Market and accused the bloc of undermining the Northern Ireland Protocol in evidence to MPs.
Lord Frost said: "We have asked and suggested to the EU that the right way forward would be to agree to extend the grace period at least for a bit to provide a bit of a breathing space for the current discussions to continue and to try and find solutions.
"I still hold out some hope they might agree to that. There’s no risk of Great British sausages ending up in the Single Market. We’re not aware it’s happened and I’d like to think someone would’ve told us if it has."
EU officials said they were open to an extension to the grace period on chilled meats, but warned that trust in Britain was low in Brussels.
They accused the UK of not labelling sausages sent to Irish retailers as “Northern Ireland only” as had been agreed in earlier talks.