Europe

Australia, UK ready to agree on free trade deal: Bishop

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Julie Bishop has assured British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt that Australia will remain one of Britain's most trusted trading partners after Brexit.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and her British counterpart Jeremy Hunt have discussed a post-Brexit trade agreement, including "contingency planning" for a no-deal scenario, during talks in Edinburgh.

Ms Bishop said the countries stand ready to make an agreement as soon as circumstances allow.

Post-Brexit arrangements were on the agenda during the 10th annual ministerial talks between the UK and Australia, which also covered foreign policy, defence and security issues.

 

The talks were also attended by defence minister Marise Payne.

They came as the European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier questioned whether the customs arrangements contained in British Prime Minister Theresa May's proposals are workable.

The EU's reaction to the prime minister's Brexit plan has heightened concerns that the UK could leave the bloc without an agreement.

"Both governments stand ready to agree a free trade agreement as soon as circumstances allow," Ms Bishop said.

"The United Kingdom will find post-Brexit that Australia will be one of your strongest, most trusted, principled and pragmatic partners."

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson with their Australian counterpart Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson with their Australian counterpart Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
AAP

Mr Hunt said post-Brexit arrangements were discussed with the Australian ministers "to make sure that whatever happens next year, trade between the United Kingdom and Australia remains smooth and continues to grow".

"We also discussed contingency planning for a no-deal scenario, to make sure that trade flows continue smoothly, but most of all we want to grow trade between the United Kingdom and Australia," he added.

Meanwhile, both politicians highlighted the need to work together and with other nations at a time of increasing global uncertainty.

The pair also agreed that US President Donald Trump made a "valid point" with his demands for NATO allies to increase defence spending in line with agreed targets.

"The United States makes a very valid point," Ms Bishop said.

"We have discussed this at length... there must be more burden-sharing when it comes to defending international rules-based order, when it comes to enforcing the rules and norms, and when it comes to promoting and advocating peace and stability around the world."

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