MEPs have given the European Commission the green light to begin trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand after a vote in the European Parliament today.
Liam Fox has previously listed the two countries as his third and fourth highest targets for trade deals after Brexit. But the beginning of EU negotiations could push Britain further back in the queue.
In July, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he was “looking forward to the early conclusion of a free trade agreement with the EU.”
Commenting, Peter Kyle MP, leading supporter of Open Britain, said:
“As Liam Fox sits in his office twiddling his thumbs, the EU seems to be getting on with adding to the 65 trade deals it already has.
“While the EU has been agreeing new deals with Canada and Japan in recent months, Cabinet ministers here have failed to even agree a Brexit negotiating position.
“According to the Trade Secretary, Australia and New Zealand are his third and fourth ‘highest priorities’ for trade deals, yet he can’t even begin negotiating with them for at least 18 months, and they will take many years to complete.
“The most important trade relationship we have is with the EU. The Government must change course, keep Britain in the Single Market and the Customs Union, and make sure we don’t lose the many trade deals we have secured as a member of the EU.”
Notes to editors:
The report of the European Parliament vote is here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20171020IPR86554/parliament-sets-guidelines-for-trade-talks-with-australia-and-new-zealand
In September, Liam Fox said the UK was “already moving” with the United States and was pushing Brussels to tie up its deal with Japan — agreed in principle in July — before Britain leaves in March 2019. “Australia and New Zealand [are] our next highest priorities because they are very keen to establish open markets and they are more like us in terms of the markets that they are,” Fox said.
Malcolm Turnbull’s comments are reported here: https://www.politico.eu/article/brexit-trade-negotiations-liam-fox-britain-does-not-have-capacity-to-strike-deals-now/