Katy Balls

The political advantages of the UK-Australia trade deal

The political advantages of the UK-Australia trade deal
Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson (photo: Number 10 / Andrew Parsons)
Text settings

The UK government has agreed its first bespoke trade deal since leaving the EU. After Boris Johnson met with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday night, a deal has been agreed between the two sides. The deal on the table offers tariff free trade for all British goods, enhanced access for British tech companies and ought to make it easer for Britons under the age of 35 to travel and work in Australia. As for the Cabinet row over whether an influx of Australian meat could threaten the livelihoods of UK farmers, a 15-year cap on tariff-free imports has been agreed – though the specifics are yet to be published.

So, what does this mean for the country? One of the aspects of the deal that ministers believe will have a noticeable effect on people's lives are the mobility and travel provisions that will mean young Brits no longer need to agree to a few months agricultural work to get a two year visa. Instead, that requirement has gone and the age cap for eligibility has been raised to 35.

In terms of the effect on the economy, government comparative statistical analysis says over the next 15 years the deal will increase GDP by just 0.02 per cent. But politically it is seen as very important for a number of reasons. First, it ought to help the UK achieve its long-term aim of membership of the CPTPP – the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership – which would open pacific markets up further to the UK, as well as offering a potential route to a trade arrangement with the US (it's been reported that Biden could support America becoming a member).

Second, is what it says about Brexit Britain. This is the first deal to be made from scratch rather than rolled over from Britain’s membership of the EU. This is how the government would like to conduct its deals in the future – and it’s hoped that signing this deal will provide the momentum needed to get another bespoke deal signed shortly with New Zealand. As well as Australia being an increasingly important ally to the UK government on foreign affairs and shared western values, the deal shows that despite kick back from the Cabinet's ‘Waitrose protectionists,’ as they have come to be known, the free marketeers in government are still being heard.