Australia hopes for ‘high-quality’ free trade deal with UK after Brexit
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon are visiting Sydney.
Australia’s foreign minister has said the country is hoping to strike a “high-quality, comprehensive free trade agreement” with the UK following Brexit.
But Julie Bishop stressed any deal must come after the conclusion of a free trade agreement with the European Union.
Ms Bishop was speaking alongside Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon at a press conference at the conclusion of the annual UK-Australia Aukmin summit in Sydney.
Pressed by reporters on the availability of UK visas, Mr Johnson insisted that Britain wanted to be “open, friendly and receptive” to Australians following EU withdrawal.
Mr Johnson said he expected a “great” free trade deal with Australia which would cover the issue of visas.
Australians currently “more or less get kissed on both cheeks at Heathrow and welcomed to the country”, he said.
“What we will be able to do once we take back control of our immigration arrangements is to have a system that is fair between everybody. We want to welcome talented Australians.”
Mr Johnson said that International Trade Secretary Liam Fox would be visiting Australia shortly to convene a bilateral trade working group.
Mr Johnson, who is on the final leg of a diplomatic and trade mission which has also taken in Japan and New Zealand, said there had been “a feast of reason and a flow of soul” between the British and Australian sides in the talks.
“As we go through the process of leaving the arrangements of the EU, we are going to widen our horizons and work more closely,” he said. “We have today reaffirmed our shared goal of concluding a free trade agreement as soon as possible after we leave the European Union.”
He said the two sides had also agreed to closer co-operation on cyberspace and the fight against modern slavery, with the Australian High Commission to chair a summit on the issue in London.
And he appeared to take a swipe at Donald Trump’s administration, as he said that the UK and Australia shared a belief in free trade, which was no longer universal in the world, “particularly with some of our friends in the United States who aren’t necessarily these days so committed to that ideal”.
Hailing the deep links between the two countries, Mr Johnson said: “We speak the same language, more or less. We compete fiercely in the same sports – not always with the same success, if I can put it tactfully – and we seek the same goal of a peaceful and prosperous world.”
Ms Bishop said: “We discussed Brexit and the potential for Australia to enter into a free trade agreement with the European Union, and subsequently a free trade agreement between Australia and the UK.”
Sir Michael said the UK was hoping for enhanced co-operation with the Australian military forces and defence industry following Brexit.
The Defence Secretary said: “Britain is going global. As we leave the European Union, we are stepping up to the challenges of global security, using our growing defence budget to invest in new equipment, from aircraft carriers and dreadnought submarines to frigates and fighter planes.
“So there is an immense opportunity here for us to join forces with the Australian defence forces and Australian defence industries to stay ahead of the curve.”