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Brexit: Australia rules out starting trade negotiations with UK until it leaves EU

Current rules state individual members of the trade bloc cannot sign their own agreements with non-European nations

Wednesday 26 October 2016 12:31 BST
Steven Ciobo, Australia trade minister
Steven Ciobo, Australia trade minister (Getty)

Australia has ruled out starting negotiations on a free trade deal with the UK until after Brexit.

Steven Ciobo, Australia’s trade minister, said he has been told that starting talks before Britain formally cuts ties with the European Union would not be legal.

Current EU rules state members cannot sign their own agreements with non-European nations but Britain had hoped to have a deal with Australia ready for 2019.

Mr Ciobo did however say he was keen on securing an agreement “promptly”.

“That is the legal advice we have had. But when Britain formally leaves we hope to be in a position to secure an agreement as efficiently and promptly as possible,” Mr Ciobo said according to the Times.

Australian officials apparently want any trade deal with the UK to include measures to allow access to Britain’s labour market for Australian workers.

The Australian trade minister also encouraged young Britons to consider working holidays.

“I'm delighted to be in the UK, Australia's biggest market for working holiday maker travel, to encourage more young Brits to travel down under. With recent changes announced to the program, a working holiday in Australia is now easier and affordable,” Mr Ciobo added.

Most experts believe any trade deal is likely to take a year to negotiate.

Mr Ciobo also suggested that Australia may scale back plans to secure a deal with the EU following the collapse of a European trade deal with Canada (Ceta).

Ceta requires ratification from all member states and the regional government of Wallonia in Belgium has refused to pass the bill.

“We need to inform our discussions about the best way forward,’’ Mr Ciobo told the Australian.

“This will form no part of the scoping study, but it is important in deciding with the EU the core competencies and what is outside an agreement. It goes to how deep a deal we can do.”

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