News Australia and Britain set to confirm trade deal

Australia and Britain set to confirm trade deal

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Scott Morrison with Boris Johnson at Downing Street after the G7 summit in June. Photo: AAP
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Prime Ministers Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson have reached an in-principle agreement for a free trade deal between Australia and Britain.

The pair worked through outstanding issues over dinner at 10 Downing Street overnight.

“Their agreement is a win for jobs, businesses, free trade and highlights what two liberal democracies can achieve while working together,” a spokesman for Mr Morrison said on Tuesday.

“Both PMs will make a formal announcement on Tuesday morning (local time) in London and release further information.”

It will be Britain’s first major post-Brexit trade deal, and will pave the way for more Australians to live and work in Britain. It will also offer exporters more market options.

Ahead of the formal announcement, Mr Morrison practised his free trade pitch before an audience of business leaders in London.

“As the United Kingdom moves into a completely new generation of their trading relationships with the world, who better to start that journey with than Australia?” he said.

He described the effect of Britain joining the European common market in the 1970s as a devastating blow to Australian producers.

“The Brexit that has occurred is an opportunity for us to pick up where we left off all those many years ago and to once again realise the scale of the trading relationship we once had.”

Several key sticking points had to be overcome before the agreement could be reached.

Agriculture had been the major obstacle, with consensus on Australian beef and lamb exports proving particularly elusive.

British dairy farmers were also sceptical about the deal.

Australian officials described negotiations as tough and the countries trade ministers were in daily contact for more than a week.

“At the end of the day there will always be hesitancy when any country enters into a trade arrangement with any other country – that is quite normal,” Mr Morrison said.

“We have quite a lot of experience in that, we’ve been able to secure many of these arrangements, and of course you need to explain them to your populations but the ultimate explanation is jobs.

“We either are passionate about growing the markets in which we can operate – providing opportunities for our own producers and suppliers and services – or we will stay in a situation of being unable to take up those opportunities.”

Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles said Labor had concerns about agricultural exports and visa conditions for farm workers, which the party would work through in time.

“Trade agreements are important for our country and trade diversification is important for our country,” Mr Marles told Sky News.

“The government has been talking about this. What we actually want to see is for them to get this deal done. When they do we’ll obviously have a good look at the detail.”