A New Zealand government consultation on building a free trade deal with the UK after Brexit has been met with calls of caution from British sheep farmers.

With sheepmeat being of equal scale in both countries – yet trade being an entirely one way process from NZ to the UK – the National Sheep Association is asking the NZ government to take account of the interests of sheep farmers in the UK by being 'realistic' in their trade deal aspirations.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker commented: "Any new UK/NZ trade deal will cover all products, industries and services and it is crucial to recognise that for sheepmeat it is an entirely one way trade. We may be relatively equivalent in terms of flock size and productivity but what is not equivalent at all is the market place with the UK having a human population of some 66 million compared to NZ’s 4.8 million.

"For sheep farming there is much to be gained by NZ in striking a free trade deal with the UK post-Brexit, and much to be lost by UK sheep farmers. Our own sheep industry will already be struggling if Brexit does not go smoothly, as seems apparent, and if NZ is given the go ahead to import a higher quantity of lamb than comes in now it will risk either pressure on prices or the UK having to chase equivalent export markets elsewhere.

"I would be highly uncomfortable with the UK having higher environmental and welfare standards and building niche markets elsewhere in the world, and in the meantime feeding our own people on lower standard and cheaper products from overseas. That is not the way to engage our own citizens with sustainable food production and land management.”