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More Aussies to live, work in UK as PM hails 'beyond-Brexit' deal

Business

Scott Morrison is expected to announce an in-principle agreement towards an Australia-UK free trade deal at a meeting with British counterpart Boris Johnson

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The deal will pave the way for more Australians to live and work in Britain and offer exporters more market options.

The prime minister practised his free trade pitch before an audience of business leaders in London.

“As the United Kingdom moves into a completely new generation of their trading relationships with the world, who better to start that journey with than Australia?” Morrison said.

He and Johnson are expected to announce the in-principle agreement after a meeting at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday morning, local time.

Ahead of the meeting, Morrison described the effect of the UK joining the European common market in the 1970s as a devastating blow to Australian producers.

“The Brexit that has occurred is an opportunity for us to pick up where we left off all those many years ago and to once again realise the scale of the trading relationship we once had,” Morrison said.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab met Morrison on Monday afternoon and said the two nations would work together to promote open economies, protect shared values and confront economic coercion.

Several key sticking points must be overcome before the final agreement can be reached.

Agriculture has firmed as the major obstacle, with consensus on Australian beef and lamb exports proving particularly elusive.

British dairy farmers are also sceptical about the trade deal.

Australian officials described negotiations as tough and the two trade ministers have been in daily contact for the past week.

“At the end of the day there will always be hesitancy when any country enters into a trade arrangement with any other country – that is quite normal,” Morrison said.

“We have quite a lot of experience in that, we’ve been able to secure many of these arrangements, and of course you need to explain them to your populations but the ultimate explanation is jobs.

“We either are passionate about growing the markets in which we can operate – providing opportunities for our own producers and suppliers and services – or we will stay in a situation of being unable to take up those opportunities.”

The prime minister indicated he did not want to sign an agreement just for the sake of it, only to have trade arguments down the track.

Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles said Labor had concerns about agricultural exports and visa conditions for farm workers, which the party would work through in time.

He urged Morrison to crack on with the deal, having spoken about it since 2016.

“Trade agreements are important for our country and trade diversification is important for our country,” Marles told Sky News.

“The government has been talking about this. What we actually want to see is for them to get this deal done. When they do we’ll obviously have a good look at the detail.”

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