Australian government says 'no deal' scenario is 'the last thing we need'
The Australian government has issued a strong warning against a “no deal” outcome to the Brexit negotiations, saying it is “the last thing” the world economy needs.
High Commissioner Alexander Downer said imposing tariffs between the UK and the EU would damage the British, European and world economies at a time when the argument for free trade was “under pressure” from protectionist forces.
He backed Mrs May’s negotiating stance that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, arguing that it is an “obvious” starting point in a trade negotiation.
However Mr Downer made clear it was his government’s strong preference for there to be a comprehensive free trade agreement between the two sides.
Speaking at an event organised by the Policy Exchange thinktank, he said: “At the moment the international debate on free trade is a bit under pressure and I think you’re all aware of that.
“The last thing we need at this time in history is for the EU and the UK to erect tariff barriers between each other.
“We see that as inimical to global economic growth, it will damage growth in this country but it will damage growth in the EU and it will damage global economic growth and it will damage the international argument for trade liberalisation.”
Mr Downer, a former foreign minister in the Australian government, also played down the complexity of doing trade deals once the UK has left the bloc.
He pointed out that Australia managed to negotiate eight different trade deals in the space of 12 years, including an agreement with the United States.
“That took us 15 months to negotiate with the US – why? Because the leaders of our countries decided we wanted to open up free trade.
“There were a couple of carve-outs…there are some regulatory issues we had to manage, but we did that at the same time negotiating other free trade agreements.
And he suggested that the UK would not necessarily need a huge number of officials to be able to conclude such deals.
“Do we use a lot of officials? Do we have a huge department to do this? We have at the moment in our department of foreign affairs and trade, which does these negotiations, 130 people who work on trade negotiations.”