Former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard downplayed claims a Australia-UK trade deal would save British producers after Brexit, stressing that her nation was ‘no substitute’ for the EU.
Appearing on BBC breakfast, Gillard reminded viewers that the UK sat quite low on Australia’s list of top trading partners and that a pact between the countries was unlikely to plug a shortfall in commerce British businesses face after leaving the EU.
‘A lot gets talked about in terms of trade deals with other countries. There is the prospect of a trade deal with Australia and we’re always open to trade deals, we’re a great trading nation,’ the former head of state said.
‘But I do worry that people are starting to imagine that the trade deal with Australia is somehow a substitute for being on the doorstep of a market with 500 million people, it’s not.’
Gillard’s visit coincides with the launch of new trade negotiations between Australia and Britain, which prime minister Boris Johnson announced over Twitter on Wednesday.
‘Think of the potential we have… We send you Penguins, and you send us, with reduced tariffs, these wonderful Arnott’s Tim Tams,’ he boasted.
But Gillard was unconvinced, reiterating that the UK was only Australia’s eighth largest trading partner, coming in behind New Zealand and Singapore.
‘If a trade deal boosts that a bit, great,’ she added, ‘but it’s not going to be a huge economic bonanza given the EU trade issues that come out of Brexit subject to how it is handled.’
Gillard also said she would have voted ‘to remain’ had she been a UK citizen at the time of the Brexit referendum.