Australian’s former prime minister has warned that an ‘Australian-style’ Brexit deal – essentially a ‘no-deal’ – will “be pretty disappointing” to the UK.
Malcolm Turnbull, who was the Liberal Party prime minister until 2018, also told Boris Johnson to “be careful what you wish for” as he explained the huge obstacles Australia faced due to its lack of a free trade deal with Europe.
The nation currently largely relies on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules to trade with Europe, which is the no-deal arrangement the UK will fall back on if it fails to broker a trade deal by the end of the transition period on December 31.
While it has a limited number of trade agreements with the EU, Australia is currently trying to negotiate its own free trade agreement with the bloc.
Speaking to BBC Question Time on Thursday evening, Turnbull explained that Australia faces “very large barriers” to trading with the bloc and that ending the Brexit transition period on similar terms will be “pretty disappointing”.
His warning came after Johnson said there is a “strong possibility” that the UK will fail to broker a trade deal with Brussels, using the euphemism of exiting with an “Australian relationship”.
Turnbull continued: “We [Australia] obviously are dealing with WTO terms. And there are really some very large barriers to Australian trade with Europe which we’re seeking to address as we negotiate a free trade agreement with Europe.
“But Australians would not regard our trade relationship with Europe as being a satisfactory one.
“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, there’s a lot to aim for.
“So, you know, be careful what you wish for. Australia’s relationship with the EU is not one from a trade point of view that I think Britain would want, frankly,” the former Rhodes Scholar added.
Australia trades 11% of its goods with the bloc. That figure stands at more than 50% for the UK.
While it does not have a comprehensive free trade agreement with Brussels, Australia does have a series of mini agreements on trade and other areas including the peaceful use of nuclear energy and scientific co-operation.
Earlier on Thursday evening Johnson had told his cabinet to “get on and make those preparations” for a departure without a trade deal, though he said negotiators would “go the extra mile” to get a treaty in time for the end of the transition period on December 31.
“I do think we need to be very, very clear, there is now a strong possibility – a strong possibility – that we will have a solution that is much more like an Australian relationship with the EU than a Canadian relationship with the EU,” he said in an interview.
Johnson insists that the UK can “prosper mightily” under a no-deal but the Office for Budget Responsibility financial watchdog has suggested that a no-deal outcome could wipe 2% off gross domestic product – a measure of the size of the economy – in 2021.
Experts have indicated that could be around £45bn.
WTO rules will mean UK firms will face tariffs on many goods traded with the EU and the addition of some quota restrictions and customs checks.