UK begins trade talks with Australia

The UK is set to begin preliminary talks with Australia exploring the possibility of a future free trade deal.

The news comes after the government earmarked Australia as its first post-Brexit trade partner. Officials are set to meet twice a year to discuss the parameters of what both sides hope will be an ‘ambitious and comprehensive’ deal.

In a joint statement British Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Australian Trade Secretary Steven Ciobo, announced: “We want the working group to advance an agenda that will ensure the expeditious transition to free trade agreement negotiations when the UK has formally completed its negotiations to exit the EU.”

In an interview with the BBC, Ciobo commented: "We want to do a deal with the UK when the time is right. The timing around that will in many respects be dictated by the UK. The discussions with the EU, the nature of those, the length of them is all yet to be determined.

"My formal advice is that, and this is from the UK side, the UK is unable to negotiate or sign an agreement prior to the formal exit from the EU.

"We can certainly have preliminary discussions and that's part of what I'm doing here this week. Preliminary discussions around what a post-Brexit Australia-UK trade deal might look like. Some discussions about what our ambitions and aspirations are - and there's been good alignment in terms of those conversations."