Oz PM wants ‘speedy’ free trade deal with UK


Australia’s Prime Minister has said his country wants to “speedily” agree a free trade deal with Britain after Brexit.

Speaking alongside Theresa May during a joint news conference at Number 10, Malcolm Turnbull said: “As Britain moves to completing its exit from the EU, we stand ready to enter into a free trade agreement with the UK as soon as the UK is able to do so.

“Once Brexit is achieved, we look forward to speedily concluding a free trade agreement. At the same time, we are looking forward to the early conclusion of a free trade agreement with the EU.”

When asked how long this would take, Mr Turnbull said: “As soon as possible, if we move quickly.

“Australians are fleet of foot, we don’t muck around… we will move as quickly as the UK is able to move.”

The comments will be a boost for Mrs May, and come in the wake of positive noises from US President Donald Trump about the prospect of Washington and London negotiating a trade agreement once Britain leaves the European Union.

Speaking during the news conference, Mrs May said a trade deal with Australia was a “priority” for the UK to build on the £14bn-worth of trade between the two countries post-Brexit.

The Prime Minister said International Trade Secretary Liam Fox would visit Australia in the “coming months” as part of ongoing talks.

“We’ve both made clear our intention to continue to deepen our trade and investment relationship as the UK leaves the EU,” she said.

“Our Brexit negotiations have started well, and I have made clear to Prime Minister Turnbull that an ambitious and comprehensive bilateral trade deal with Australia remains a priority for the UK.

“Australia was the first country with whom the UK established a trade working group following the vote to leave the EU and we’re keeping up a regular and productive dialogue on the future of our free trading relationship.”

Mr Turnbull said he viewed Mrs May’s vision of Brexit as a chance for Britain to take on a new global role with “big horizons and big opportunities”, and said he wanted Australia to be a partner in that endeavour.

“There are no two nations in the world that trust each other more than the UK and Australia,” he said.

“We are family in a historical sense, we are family in a genetical sense. We are so close, and that trust is getting stronger all the time.”

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, a leading supporter of the campaign group Open Britain, said: “A free trade deal with Australia would be good news, but with it accounting for just 1.4% of our exports, it is a drop in the ocean compared to the EU market on our doorstep which accounts for half our trade.

“This demonstrates the foolishness of betting the house on trade deals which may not happen for years, when the Government is committed to quickly pulling us out of the single market and the Customs Union, a combination of which gives us free trade across the European Union and trade deals with over 50 other countries.”

Mr Turnbull’s trip included a visit to Borough Market to speak to members of the emergency services who responded to the London Bridge terror attack and also those affected by the atrocity.

Mrs May said she and Mr Turnbull had discussed cooperation in the fight against terrorism and in denying the use of the internet as a “safe space” for extremist groups.