Australia ready to do post-Brexit trade deal – but EU comes first – The Guardian

Australia ready to do post-Brexit trade deal – but EU comes first – The Guardian

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Australia stands ready to do a trade deal as soon as the UK is ready after Brexit but will try to do one with the EU first, Malcolm Turnbull, the country’s prime minister, said after talks with Theresa May in Downing Street.

In a joint press conference, the UK and Australian leaders expressed enthusiasm for an ambitious trade deal as soon as possible after the UK leaves the EU.

Speaking alongside May in Downing Street, Turnbull said Australians “do not muck around” when it comes to free trade, which he said was responsible for the nation’s prosperity.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

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.”

Although the UK is unable to complete its own trade deals before leaving the EU in March 2019, ministers are able to lay the groundwork for an agreement, with Liam Fox, the trade secretary, planning to visit Australia for preliminary talks in the coming months.

Turnbull and May both showed a relaxed demeanour, having known each other for decades after first meeting while at university. The Australian prime minister joked that May’s husband, Philip, should have been chairing the debate, as the former president of the Oxford union when the three of them attended in the late 1970s.

The pair also joked about cricket, with May revelling in England’s victory over Australia, before adding: “That’s the women’s cricket of course.”

In the morning, 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.

On their walkabout around Borough Market with Metropolitan Police chief Cressida Dick, they met police officers who attempted to revive Sara Zelenak, an Australian who was among the eight people killed.

They also went to the spot where Australian nurse Kirsty Boden, who rushed to the aid of those attacked, was murdered by the three attackers.

Later in Downing Street, Turnbull had very warm words for the UK, saying that when Britain’s institutions are attacked, Australia felt attacked as well.

“There are no two nations in the world that trust each other more than the UK and Australia,” he said. “We are family in a historical sense, we are family in a genetical sense. We are so close, and that trust is getting stronger all the time…

“The attack on Westminster Bridge, the cruel assault on young children in Manchester Arena, the attack at London Bridge and Borough Market – these were felt by the Australian people as keenly as the attacks we have suffered at home in Australia.

“We stand shoulder to shoulder now, as we always have, in freedom’s cause today, defying and defeating the Islamist terrorists that seek to do us harm, to seek to destroy our way of life and prevent us from living our way of life as we always have.”

May said that she and Turnbull had discussed cooperation in the fight against terrorism and in denying the use of the internet as a “safe space” for extremist groups by cracking down on end-to-end encryption of information on messaging platforms.

Turnbull’s first official visit to the UK as prime minister will also include an audience with the Queen.

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