Australian PM seeks free trade deal with UK ‘as soon as possible’ after Brexit
Malcolm Turnbull held talks with the Prime Minister at Downing Street.
Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has said his country wants to seal a free trade agreement with the UK “as soon as possible” after Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.
Mr Turnbull’s comments came after he held talks at 10 Downing Street with Theresa May, who revealed that International Trade Secretary Liam Fox will visit Australia in the “coming months” as part of ongoing talks on an agreement.
The two prime ministers visited the scene of last month’s London Bridge terror attack to thank emergency workers who went to the aid of victims, who included two Australian nationals.
Mr Turnbull’s first official visit to the UK as prime minister will also include an audience with the Queen.
Speaking alongside Mrs May in Downing Street, the Australian PM 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.”
Mr Turnbull said he hoped the EU deal could be finalised before the expected date of Brexit in March 2019.
And asked how quickly a UK agreement could follow, he said: “As soon as possible. We move quickly. Australians are fleet of foot, we don’t muck around, we are very simple. So we will move as quickly as the UK is able to move.”
Mrs May said a trade deal with Australia was a “priority” for the UK after Brexit, to expand on the £14 billion-worth of trade between the two nations.
“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 joked about his time as a contemporary of Mrs May and her husband Philip May at Oxford University.
“We’re not really debating today but the last time we debated was at the Oxford Union – Theresa Brasier and Malcolm Turnbull were both on the notice paper and the president was Philip May,” he said.
“So now what we need is president May here to oversee the debate.”
And Mrs May gently ribbed her old friend about England’s first cricket Women’s World Cup victory over Australia since 1993.
“It’s always a pleasure to welcome our Australian friends to London, and even more so when you’ve just beaten them at the cricket,” she said.
Mr Turnbull stressed that the UK and Australia remained close friends “whatever our differences may be on particular sporting contests”, adding: “Australians want their team on the field beating the Poms.”