Brexit: Getting a deal is 'critical' says Australia's Malcolm Turnbull
And George Brandis QC, the Australian High Commissioner to the UK, suggested an agreement would leave both nations well-placed to weather the economic storm triggered by COVID-19. The UK is focusing on tying up trade deals with a host of non-EU nations with Brexit now a reality.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Brandis said: “Both our nations knew that, left unchecked, the economic damage of COVID-19 could outlast the virus itself.”
Both Australia and the UK had expanded government support to protect the economy and their citizens – and both were now targeting getting people back into the workforce.
Mr Brandis added: “Be it through a free trade deal, our clean technology partnership or the other areas in which we work together, Australia-UK collaboration will supercharge our recovery and ensure more jobs come back.
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“Levelling up our international engagement in 2020 – by supporting a free and prosperous Indo-Pacific and protecting our interests in multilateral bodies – also made clear that being out in the world, standing up for our values and protecting our prosperity, is the best way to shape the international order to our national interests.”
He stressed: “Just as we enjoy bipartisan consensus on the centrality of our sovereignty, Australians and their political leaders share a decades-long commitment to the benefits of free trade.
“We see a comprehensive and ambitious free trade deal between the UK and Australia as central to making the global case for free trade, and demonstrative of how two like-minded partners can diversify trade, strengthen supply chains and help jobs come back.”
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He added: “We have the political will.
“There is no reason it can’t be wrapped up this year.
“Not only will it bind our two nations even more closely together; it will be an early post-Brexit dividend for Britain.”
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Moreover, the benefits to the UK would be enormous, opening up hitherto untapped markets.
Mr Brandis explained: “It will more closely connect Britain with the world’s most economically dynamic region, the Asia-Pacific: the heartbeat of the world economy in the 21st century.”
It would also mark an important step in the restoration of normality once the pandemic recedes, he stressed.
He said: “While Australia took early action to protect Australians from the virus by closing our international borders, the affection we have for our friends in Britain remains undiminished.
“We want to see young Britons living and working in Australia again and our best and brightest travelling freely between us, linking up ideas and industries that supercharge economies.
“Australia is working toward having borders that are open once more – and while that will take time, we have the skill set to do it.
“Britain and Australia got through 2020 by standing as one in safeguarding our sovereignty and protecting our prosperity.
“In 2021, we can take the lessons of that trying year, apply them together and truly make this the year of our comeback.”
Britain has already sewn up trade deals worth almost £200billion, including agreements with Canada and Japan.
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