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Australian Treasurer praises Hammond and PM over ‘challenging’ Brexit talks

Scott Morrison said he ‘certainly wouldn’t want’ his UK counterpart’s job.

Australia’s Treasurer has voiced support for his UK counterpart, Philip Hammond, and Theresa May in the Brexit negotiations – despite their plans causing consternation among some Down Under.

Scott Morrison said he “certainly wouldn’t want” Mr Hammond’s job as he heaped praise on the Chancellor and Prime Minister for their efforts in tackling the “very challenging issue”.

However, he declined to give his view directly on the Government’s Brexit strategy.

I commend Chancellor Hammond and of course Prime Minister May for dealing with what is a very challenging set of circumstances Scott Morrison

Elements of the PM’s Chequers agreement unveiled in July were met with dismay by some Australian exporters hoping to boost trade with the UK.

Experts have warned that the decision to seek a free trade deal with the EU on agricultural and manufactured goods would make access to the new Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) unlikely.

Speaking to the Press Association at an Australian British Chamber of Commerce event in Sydney, Mr Morrison said the outcome of the Brexit negotiations would be “very important for the global economy”.

But he would not be drawn on whether Britain’s strategy would be good for future trade with Australia.

He said: “One of the things I learn when I go to the G20 is there are some people’s jobs I certainly wouldn’t want.

“This is a very challenging issue for the UK Government and I commend Chancellor Hammond and of course Prime Minister May for dealing with what is a very challenging set of circumstances.

“I’m not going to be a commentator on what they’re doing. I know they’re applying themselves fully in what is a very difficult challenge that is very important for the global economy, very important for the European economy, the British economy, and I’ve only been totally impressed with the way that Chancellor Hammond has been applying himself to this very difficult task.”

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Scott Morrison previously warned the EU against trying to punish the UK for leaving (PA)

Mr Hammond is regarded as supporting a “soft” Brexit which would aim to protect jobs by remaining closely aligned to the EU.

In July, Alexander Downer, the former Australian high commissioner to the UK, warned it was “unlikely” that Britain would be accepted to the CPTPP in such circumstances.

Meanwhile, Alan Oxley, a former Australian trade negotiator, said he thought Australia “wouldn’t be interested” if the UK’s agricultural policy remained the same as the EU after Brexit.

Pressed on the fact that such a strategy could limit trade with Australia, Mr Morrison said: “I’m not engaging in the internal politics of the United Kingdom or the path that they are adopting pursuing the Brexit vote that occurred there some years ago.

“It’s for them (Mrs May and Mr Hammond) to manage that and handle that and I commend them for the professional and determined way that they are proceeding with trying to resolve that issue.”

He made the comments as Mrs May met French President Emmanuel Macron in a bid to win his support for her plans.

The leaders are due to dine together at his summer retreat, Fort de Bregancon, on a small island off the French Mediterranean coast, on Friday night.

Asked what he would say to the leaders if he was at the table, Mr Morrison replied: “Well, I’m not at the table … the Prime Minister engages with the other world leaders, I had the opportunity to engage with my counterparts in Buenos Aires a couple of weeks ago and I think Chancellor Hammond has been showing real leadership.”

In January last year, Mr Morrison warned the EU against punishing Britain for leaving, warning that impacts on financial markets “would have implications well beyond Europe”.

“We must recognise that a punitive or restrictive set of new arrangements will have far greater and more lasting implications than the immediate reaction to the poll result itself,” he said.

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