A free trade deal between Australia and the United Kingdom has been hailed by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as “a new dawn” in relations between the two countries.

Key points:

  • PM Scott Morrison said the deal was “the most comprehensive and ambitious agreement Australia has concluded”
  • Age limits on working holiday visas will be increased to 35, and tariffs will be eased on a range of goods
  • The free trade agreement is the first major deal struck by the UK post-Brexit

Under the deal, the age limit for working holiday visas will be increased to 35 for both countries, and the UK will liberalise the import of Australian lamb, beef and sugar.

“Today marks a new dawn in the UK’s relationship with Australia, underpinned by our shared history and common values,” Mr Johnson said in a statement shortly before a press conference with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

It is the UK’s first major trade deal since it exited the European Union.

Mr Morrison said the deal was “the most comprehensive and ambitious agreement that Australia has concluded”.

“Our economies are stronger by these agreements,” he said.

“Movement of people, movement of goods, movement of services – this is what underpins the strength of advanced economies and liberal democracies.”

The agreement will liberalise imports, with up to 99 per cent of Australian goods entering the UK duty free once the deal comes into force, which is expected to be midway through next year.

The Australian government said local producers and farmers would “receive a significant boost by getting greater access to the UK market”.

But under the deal, Australian farmers will not gain unfettered access to British markets for 15 years, with tariffs on beef, sheep meat, dairy and sugar slowly phased out over that time period.

Mr Johnson said that British farmers would be protected.

“We’re opening up to Australia but we’re doing it in a staggered way, and we’re doing it over 15 years,” he said.

“We’re retaining safeguards and making sure that we have protection against sudden influxes of goods.”

Australia and the UK are still yet to officially sign the agreement and still need to finalise some elements, including the legal text, but the deal has been agreed to in principle.

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Working holiday visa age increased

The working holiday visa age limit will be increased from 30 to 35 for both countries and will provide up to three years of working rights in either nation, while a new agriculture-specific visa will be established to allow people to work on farms in either country.

“In Australia, it means that we will be moving forward with an agriculture visa, that is something I’ve had a positive view on for some time, we look forward to that occurring,” Mr Morrison said.

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New agricultural visa established for UK, Australian workers

“One of the biggest challenges we have, particularly in COVID when there’s such restriction on movements of people, we need to meet workforce challenges to ensure our primary producers, in particular, can make the most of the linear agreement we’ve agreed here today.”

Australian professionals will also benefit, with new provisions to support mutual recognition of qualifications in the UK.

Prior to entering the European common market in 1973, the UK was Australia’s most lucrative trading market.

In 2018, the UK was Australia’s eighth-largest two-way trading partner, worth $26.9 billion.

The president of the National Farmers Federation, Fiona Simson, has previously said that the “volume of Australian red meat to the UK, in the context of the UK’s total red meat imports and Australia’s total exports, is very, very small”.

Australia and UK strike agreement for post-Brexit trade deal
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