Interview on Channel 7 Sunrise with Samantha Armytage
Samantha Armytage: UK Prime Minister Theresa May will return to parliament later today with her so-called plan B for Brexit. Less than a week ago, May’s Brexit deal suffered an historic defeat in parliament – 432 votes to 202, with MPs on all sides rejecting it. May has had a few days to come up with a better solution after two years of trying to find one. A successful plan B must please both the hardline Brexiteers and the pro-European politicians. Deal or no-deal. Brexit is going ahead on March 29. Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham joins me from London. You’re meeting with British officials to discuss the implications of Brexit for Australia and how quickly we can move to a formal free trade agreement after Brexit. How is it going?
Simon Birmingham: Well Sam, Australia has very significant interest in the United Kingdom, around $13 billion of annual exports to the UK, around $300 billion of investment in the UK. This is, of course, something we want to make sure that we have a strong and protected relationship. We are here making sure that whatever happens in relation to Brexit, and that is the UK’s business, that Australia’s interest is protected. That our exporters can continue to get and enjoy the type of access they need for their goods such as our world leading wines, around 1 in 5 bottles of wine bought and consumed in the UK, is Australian wine and we need to make sure that continues in the future, of course along as all of the other exports and investments that we have here.
Samantha Armytage: Yes, Minister, because Britain is our seventh largest trading partner, as you say it is very important. I know the British government has got a lot on its plate right now but are they listening to you? Is the Trade Secretary, whatever they are called over there, listening to you? Do they care about Australia?
Simon Birmingham: Indeed, I will be meeting again with the Trade Secretary tomorrow, UK time. We have already sealed a number of agreements with the UK so whatever happens with relation to Brexit, we can have certainty that the way in which wine is recognised and brought into the UK will be the same as it was in relation to the EU. That we have now a recognition agreement in place so that testing and standards in relation to a range of different goods that are exported here will be the same. So we’ve got those agreements signed in previous days and what we’re really looking to do now is ensure that we take the discussions and negotiations to the next level around the type ultimately free trade agreement that Australia would hope to strike with the UK if and when they do finally leave the EU.
Samantha Armytage: Ok. What a fascinating time to be there. Simon Birmingham, thank you for your time and good luck.