Boris Johnson wants an ‘Australian-style’ relationship with the EU but Australia’s last PM says even they don’t want that


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Boris Johnson and Malcolm Turnbull Getty
  • Boris Johnson has said he would back leaving the EU without a deal, leaving Britain with what he described as an “Australian-style” relationship with the EU under which the UK would “prosper mightily.”

  • However, Australia’s last Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull warned Johnson to: “be careful what you wish for.”

  • He said the arrangement had left Australia with a “disappointing” relationship and “very large barriers” to trade with the EU.

  • Even Australia does not want its current relationship with Europe and is seeking to negotiate a new free trade deal with the EU.

  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Boris Johnson has been told to “be careful what you wish for” by Australia’s last prime minister after Johnson said he would back the UK leaving the EU without a free trade, in what he described as an “Australian-style” arrangement.

Malcolm Turnbull, who was Australia’s prime minister from 2015 to 2018, on Thursday evening said that emulating Australia’s trading relationship with the EU would be a “pretty disappointing” outcome for the UK, adding that Johnson should “be careful what you wish for.”

Asked about the UK potentially trading with the EU without a trade agreement from January, Turnbull last night told BBC Question Time: “Well it will be pretty disappointing, I think you’ll find out.

“We obviously have a deal with the EU on WTO terms and there are really some very large barriers to Australian trade with Europe which we are seeking to address as we negotiate a free trade agreement with Europe.

“But Australians would not regard our trading relationship with Europe as being satisfactory. It’s our third biggest trading partner collectively, I guess, because it’s such a big economy, but there are very big barriers to Australian exports of agricultural products in particular, there’s a lot of friction in the system in terms of services.

He said: “When I was prime minister we started formal negotiations of the Europe-Australia free trade agreement, but that will take some time.

“Be careful what you wish for. Australia’s relationship with the EU is not one, from a trade point of view, that Britain would want, frankly.”

The UK will break away from EU rules without a free trade agreement on New Year’s Eve unless Johnson’s government and European leaders make a breakthrough in trade negotiations in the coming days. The prime minister and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will decide on Sunday whether a deal is possible.

Johnson has for months described leaving the EU without a free trade agreement as an “Australian-style” outcome and sought to play down the economic damage it would cause.

However, Australia trades with the EU largely on basic World Trade Organisation terms, and is trying to negotiate a new trade deal with the bloc in order to improve its market access.

The Office for Budget Responsibility recently estimated that leaving the EU without a trade deal would reduce the UK’s long-term, economic output by 6%. It would result in costly tariffs on a range of goods sold between the UK and the EU, its largest trading partner, which in turn would almost certainly lead to price rises for everyday items like food and drink. Tesco chairman John Allan warned this week that average prices could rise by 5%.

Andrew McDonald, director of Sydney-based beef producer NH Foods Australia, recently told Reuters: “If they [the UK] are emulating our current access to Europe, it is a fairly fractured and limited access, so it’s an interesting one they’d like to copy.”

The UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden on Friday morning defended the UK government describing a no-deal outcome as “Australian-style,” telling BBC Radio 4: “I don’t think it’s taking people for a ride.”

A Downing Street spokesperson on Wednesday said there were still “major differences” between the UK and EU after Johnson and his team discussed the state of trade negotiations with EU chief von der Leyen over dinner in Brussels.

The talks remain stuck over a handful of thorny issues that have hindered progress for most of the year: fishing, rules for preventing unfair competition (also known as the “level playing field,”) and how a final deal would be policed.

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