Brexit: Boris Johnson says Australia trade deal will bring ‘fantastic opportunities’ for UK

·4 min read
Boris Johnson welcomes Australian prime minister Scott Morrison to 10 Downing Street for talks on Monday (Getty Images)
Boris Johnson welcomes Australian prime minister Scott Morrison to 10 Downing Street for talks on Monday (Getty Images)

The UK’s new trade deal with Australia will bring “fantastic opportunities” for Britain, Boris Johnson has said.

The prime minister hailed the agreement, which the government expects to grow the economy by just 0.02 per cent over 15 years, as a “new dawn” for Britain.

A statement released by Downing Street on Tuesday morning said Mr Johnson agreed the main elements of the deal at a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Downing Street on Monday night.

Under the deal, tariffs trade will be removed, but there will be a cap on tariff-free imports for 15 years.

The free trade agreement also makes it easier for people from the UK under the age of 35 to live and work in Australia, though the details are yet to be released.

But British farmers have warned that imported Australian food produced at industrial scales and to different standards will drive them out of business.

The government says that the UK-Australia trade relationship was worth £13.9 billion last year.

“Today marks a new dawn in the UK’s relationship with Australia, underpinned by our shared history and common values,” Mr Johnson said in a statement.

“Our new free-trade agreement opens fantastic opportunities for British businesses and consumers, as well as young people wanting the chance to work and live on the other side of the world.

“This is global Britain at its best – looking outwards and striking deals that deepen our alliances and help ensure every part of the country builds back better from the pandemic.”

Trade secretary Liz Truss said the deal was “a fundamentally liberalising agreement that removes tariffs on all British goods, opens new opportunities for our services providers and tech firms, and makes it easier for our people to travel and work together”.

On Tuesday morning Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove responded to farmers’ concerns about the deal by arguing that the proportion of meat coming from Australia would be a "pretty small" part of the country's overall production.

"It is the case that there are some practices in Australia that we wouldn't allow here but it's also the case that we have restrictions on some of the products that can be brought in because of our particular public health requirements,” he said.

"The other thing though is that the majority of Australian produce goes to Asia. That's their closest market, it's a growing market as the demand for protein, for beef and lamb, grows in Asia.

"The proportion of Australian meat that's likely to come to the UK is going to be a pretty small part of their overall production.

"So, you know, it's also the case as I understand it, that Liz Truss in the negotiations has secured a commitment from Australia to work with us on high animal welfare standards and I think that's a good thing."

But Dmitry Grozoubinski, a former Australian trade negotiator, said it was difficult to see what the UK had got out of the agreement and that Australia had got everything it could have asked for.

"The one thing Australia wants out of trade deals, the reason we do them, the marching orders we used to get, is access into agricultural markets abroad," he told LBC.

"We make a lot of agriculture, there are a lot of barriers to sending our produce overseas in terms of tariffs, so we get sent in there and told 'go and get rid as many of those barriers as you can'.

"I don't think we have ever done as well as this: getting rid of all tariffs and quotas forever is virtually an unprecedented result: it's as good as what you could possibly get from Australia's perspective in a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom, but not transformational for our economy: you guys are pretty far away."

Asked what wins the UK had got out of the agreement, he said: "We have not heard any of them: if you look at even today minister [Liz] Truss was tweeting about the deal, the way she tends to sell it is 'you will get cheaper Australian products'.

"There's a question of how much you'll actually feel that at the supermarket, and that is in trade negotiation terms a concession by the United Kingdom. It's the UK agreeing to get rid of a tax on Australian imports."

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