Scott Morrison strikes historic free trade deal between Australia and the UK during dinner with Boris Johnson
- The pair met at Downing Street on Monday evening for a three-hour dinner
- Could be first trade deal negotiated from scratch since the UK’s exit from EU
- Gives Australian meat exporters the change to move away from China
Scott Morrison has struck a free trade deal between Australia and the UK during a dinner with Boris Johnson – after initial disagreements about agricultural exports and backpacker work requirements.
The pair met at Downing Street on Monday evening, after Mr Morrison told an Australia-UK Chamber of Commerce audience that the process of the UK leaving the European Union could bring benefits.
‘As the United Kingdom moves into a completely new generation of their trading relationships with the world, who better to start that journey with than Australia?’ Mr Morrison said.
The agreement, which could boost the Australian economy by up to $1.3billion each year, will be formally announced on Tuesday and gives beef and lamb exporters the chance to move away from the volatile Chinese market.
Pictured: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) greeting Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (left) at Downing Street in London on Monday evening
Instead of opting for a formal handshake, Mr Johnson (right) greeted Mr Morrison (left) with an elbow bump
Pictured: The awkward exchange between Scott Morrison (left) and Boris Johnson (right) outside 10 Downing Street on Monday
Downing Street did not deny the reports and, if confirmed, the agreement would be the first trade deal negotiated from scratch since the UK’s exit from the European Union.
Industry leaders have raised concerns over possible compromises on food standards, while farmers fear they could be undercut by cut-price imports.
A split in the Cabinet also appeared between International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Environment Secretary George Eustice, who has concerns about the impact on farmers.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove also harbours fears a deal could fuel demands for Scottish and Welsh independence.
Pictured: Mr Morrison (left) bumping elbows with the UK Prime Minister (right) before trade negotiations
Pictured: The two leaders awkwardly touching elbows in a Covid-safe exchange on Monday
Agriculture has firmed as the major obstacle, with consensus on Australian beef and lamb exports proving to be particularly elusive.
British dairy farmers are also skeptical about the trade deal.
Australian officials have described negotiations as tough and the two trade ministers have been in daily contact.
‘At the end of the day there will always be hesitancy … when any country enters into a trade arrangement with any other country – that is quite normal,’ Mr Morrison said.
Following the odd interaction, the pair posed together for photographers on Monday evening
Pictured: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison waved blankly at reporters after touching elbows with Boris Johnson
Scott Morrison (pictured) was hoping to secure deals on Australian exports with the United Kingdon
‘We have quite a lot of experience in that, we’ve been able to secure many of these arrangements, and of course you need to explain them to your populations but the ultimate explanation is jobs.
‘We either are passionate about growing the markets in which we can operate – providing opportunities for our own producers and suppliers and services – or we will stay in a situation of being unable to take up those opportunities.’
Trade Minister Dan Tehan said enormous progress had been made on the agreement over the past six weeks but it was unclear whether a deal could be reached this week.
Pictured: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (left) and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) heading inside at 10 Downing Street, London
Mr Morrison described the effect of the UK joining the European common market – a forerunner to the EU – in the 1970s as ‘a devastating blow on Australian producers’.
‘The Brexit that has occurred is an opportunity for us to pick up where we left off all those many years ago and to once again realise the scale of the trading relationship that we once had,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘And who better to do it than with Australia at this time?’
Mr Morrison has indicated he does not want to sign an agreement just for the sake of it, only to have trade arguments down the track.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab met Mr Morrison on Monday afternoon and said the two governments would ‘work together to promote open societies and economies, protect our values and confront coercion’.