UK and Australia agree post-Brexit free trade deal
Boris Johnson has agreed the broad terms of a free trade deal with Australia, the first negotiated from scratch since Brexit.
The British prime minister said it marks a “new dawn” in the UK’s relationship with Australia, with British products like cars, Scotch whisky and biscuits set to be cheaper to sell in the tariff-free agreement.
Mr Johnson and his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, announced the agreement today despite concerns from farmers on both sides over the deal.
Industry leaders have spoken out over possible compromises on food standards, while farmers fear they could be undercut by cut-price imports.
Announcing the trade deal, Downing Street said there will be a cap on tariff-free imports for 15 years, while other “safeguards” will be brought in to protect British farmers.
Elsewhere in the agreement, Downing Street said Britons under the age of 35 will be able to travel and work in Australia more freely – suggesting the farm work requirement on working holiday visas could be scrapped.
Mr Johnson said: “Today marks a new dawn in the UK’s relationship with Australia, underpinned by our shared history and common values.
“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.”
The two leaders were said to have agreed the pact over dinner in Downing Street last night, with a final agreement in principle set to be published in the coming days.
In the lead-up to the deal being agreed, a split in the Cabinet appeared between International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Environment Secretary George Eustice, who has concerns about the impact on farmers.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove also harbours fears that the agreement could fuel demands for Scottish and Welsh independence.
In a statement stressing the benefits of the deal to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Number 10 said the new deal will help distillers by removing tariffs of up to 5% on Scotch whisky.
It said more than 450 businesses in Wales exported to Australia last year and that “life science companies and chemicals manufacturers are set to benefit in particular”.
For Northern Ireland, Downing Street said that 90% of all exports to Australia are machinery and manufacturing goods, with tariffs set to be removed and customs procedures simplified.
Elsewhere, car manufacturers in the Midlands and north of England will see tariffs of up to 5% cut, the statement added.
The free trade deal is also set to eliminate tariffs on Australian goods like Jacob’s Creek and Hardys wines, swimwear, and confectionery, which will save British households up to £34 million a year, according to Downing Street.
Total trade between the UK and Australia was worth £13.9 billion in 2020, while the UK was Australia’s fifth largest trading partner the previous year.
Downing Street said the agreement will also boost the UK’s bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
Ms Truss said: “The agreement paves the way for us to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a £9 trillion free trade area home to some of the biggest consumer markets of the present and future.
“Membership will create unheralded opportunities for our farmers, makers, innovators and investors to do business in the future of engine room of the global economy.”