UK Politics

Turnbull: Australia 'very keen' for trade deal with UK

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Media captionMalcolm Turnbull said he wants a UK trade deal "as soon as possible"

Australia is "very keen" to secure a trade deal with the UK post Brexit "as quickly as possible", Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull has said.

Mr Turnbull told journalists at No 10: "We move quickly. Australians are fleet of foot. We don't muck around. We're very simple. So we will move as quickly as the UK will move."

Ahead of the Downing Street talks, the two leaders visited Borough Market.

Two Australians died in June's van and knife attacks in south-east London.

During a Downing Street press conference, Mr Turnbull said Australia "had been the first on the phone" to call for a free trade agreement with the UK following Britain's decision to leave the EU.

He said Australia stands "ready to enter into a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom as soon as the UK is able to do so - so once that Brexit has been achieved, then we look forward to speedily concluding a free trade agreement".

Mr Turnbull said he hoped the EU deal could be finalised before the expected date of Brexit in March 2019.

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Image caption The two leaders earlier visited the scene of last month's terror attack in south-east London

He said a UK agreement could follow swiftly: "My government's position is very simply this: economic prosperity has been demonstrated to be delivered by free trade and open markets - that is one of the major reasons why Australia has had 26 years of uninterrupted economic growth."

He said Mrs May's vision for post-Brexit Britain "is one filled with optimism". "It's not a counsel of despair as some people have said."

Turning to the PM, he added: "I know Theresa that you believe passionately that the British people can do anything, can achieve anything and that your post-Brexit Britain will be a Britain with big horizons, big opportunities, free trade, open markets.

"You're right, that is the future. That's where our prosperity has been delivered and I know that it's where your prosperity will come."

Security links

Mrs May said a trade deal with Australia was a "priority" for the UK after Brexit, to expand on the £14bn-worth of trade between the two nations.

"We've both made clear our intention to continue to deepen our trade and investment relationship as the UK leaves the EU," she said.

"Our Brexit negotiations have started well, and I have made clear to prime minister Turnbull that an ambitious and comprehensive bilateral trade deal with Australia remains a priority for the UK."

Earlier, the two prime ministers - who were at Oxford University at the same time - visited the scene of the Borough Market atrocity to be briefed by police officers and paramedics who rushed to the aid of victims and survivors.

They also spoke to traders in the market, one of London's most popular visitor attractions.

The two earlier met Church leaders at nearby Southwark Cathedral, including the Reverend Canon Michael Rawson, the Sub Dean of the cathedral.

The UK and Australia have strong commercial, cultural and security links through the Commonwealth and the "five eyes" intelligence alliance.

Although the UK cannot negotiate trade deals with other countries until after Brexit, Australia is one of the countries with which Whitehall officials have set up a working party to look at the issues involved.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox will be travelling to Australia in the coming months.

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