Credit: Original article can be found here
The UK is hoping to sign a new trade agreement with Australia before the G7 summit in Cornwall later this month. It has also started talks to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and with a number of other countries.
Speaking to POLITICO Mike Rann, formerly Australia’s top diplomat to the UK, advised caution.
He argued Britain is still “struggling with post-Brexit terms negotiated” with the EU by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
These came into effect at the end of December, replacing the Brexit transition period.
Mr Rann added: “There is now more than a hint of desperation as Boris [Johnson] and his ambitious Trade Secretary Liz Truss scramble to demonstrate that there is a post Brexit dividend.”
The UK is also hoping to sign trade deals with India, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico and a number of Middle Eastern states.
Discussions with India, widely tipped as a future economic superpower, will begin later this year.
A leading British business insider warned the priority must be on getting deals right, not just quickly.
He said: “From our perspective, it’s take your time, get it right.
They also worry such an agreement would be a template for other agricultural powerhouses, such as Brazil and the United States.
However the plan was passionately defended on the BBC’s Newsnight show by Lord Hannan, a leading Brexit campaigner.
Newsnight host Emily Maitlis suggested the deal would be “totally lopsided”, increasing Australian beef exports to the UK by 83 percent.
Lord Hannan replied: “The way you’ve just phrased that demonstrates exactly what is wrong with this debate.
“We are not opening our markets to Australia as a favour to Australia, we’re opening our markets as a favour to ourselves which may happen incidentally to benefit some Australians.
“How is it a bad thing to be getting high-quality, more diverse products at an affordable price from around the world?”
The Government insists it will not rush into deals regardless of their consequences.
A department for international trade spokesperson said: “As the International Trade Secretary has clearly stated, we will not sacrifice quality for speed.”
They insisted any agreement will be “fair and balanced, work for producers and consumers and be in the best interests of the whole of the UK”.
The UK voted to leave the EU in June 2016, though this was delayed several times due to parliamentary opposition.