Talks between Britain and Australia are getting under way
Australia treasurer Scott Morrison said the Canberra government would look to improve on the already close relationship between the two nations as Brexit takes shape.
But high commissioner to London Alexander Downer has suggested Australia wants better access for its businesspeople before agreeing a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We would want to see greater access for Australian businesspeople working in the UK and that’s often been a part of free trade negotiations – it hasn’t always been by the way, but it’s often been part of our free trade negotiations.
Australia treasurer Scott Morrison said a Brexit trade deal could be done quickly
We would want to see greater access for Australian businesspeople working in the UK and that’s often been a part of free trade negotiations
High commissioner Alexander Downer
“It might just make it a bit simpler actually, for example an Australian company that invests in the UK might want to bring some of its executives to the UK.
“That can be done with what are called tier 2 visas, but maybe that could be made a little bit easier. I suspect they would be the only sort of changes you’d be looking at.”
No deals can be signed until Brexit is complete but there is nothing to stop informal discussions taking place ahead of the eventual split.
And once the UK has severed all links with Brussels an agreement with Australia could happened almost immediately.
Australian high commissioner to London Alexander Downer wants better immigration rules
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Canberra struck a deal with the US in eight months under George W Bush’s presidency and Mr Downer said a similar timeframe was realistic if Britain did not want to protect certain industries.
He said: “We have had discussions with them at all sorts of different levels, including ministerial level. We have set up a working group to explore the scope of what a free trade agreement might look like.
“We can’t negotiate a free trade agreement with the UK until the time is right. Obviously once the UK leaves the EU it can negotiate free trade agreements but not before then.
“But we can scope it out and we’ve provided a scoping paper to the British government to explain what we think the scope of a free trade agreement should look like.”
Post-Brexit trade talks with Australia are getting under way in London
Tue, April 19, 2016
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Meetings are scheduled with British chancellor Philip Hammond, British housing and planning minister Gavin Barwell and city minister Simon Kirby.
Mr Morrison said: “Discussions during this visit will begin laying the foundations for Australia to strike new beneficial trade and investment arrangements with the UK that benefit our businesses, exporters and citizens.”
The value of Australia’s trade with the UK was £16.4 billion in 2015-16, split between £7.3 billion in exports and £9.1 billion in imports.