Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo has today told MEPs that a free trade deal between Australia and the EU will be prioritised over any trade negotiations with the UK. He said he expects trade negotiations to begin with the EU in the second half of next year, whereas discussions with the UK are at least two and half years away.
The warning comes after the Trade Minister yesterday told the Today Programme that trade negotiations with the UK could only take place after Brexit.
Addressing MEPs at a European Parliament hearing, Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said:
“I see the European Union FTA (Free Trade Agreement) as certainly commencing well and truly prior to anything that might happen with the UK.
“The UK and Australia of course do have a historical relationship, but it’s in many respects a relationship of yesteryear.”
Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder commented:
“This is a huge blow to Liam Fox and his Brexit trade fantasy.
“The economic reality is that even our closest trading partners will prioritise talks with the EU, the biggest market in the world, over the UK.
“Pulling out of Europe’s single market would mean years of damaging uncertainty, job losses and investment. How do you tell businesses to wait years to know what the rules of trade will be?
“The Liberal Democrats will stand up against a damaging Brexit and fight to keep Britain open, tolerant and united.”