British PM Theresa May flags trade deal with Australia in 'hard Brexit' plans

Prime Minister Theresa May and husband Philip. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/ PA Wire/ Getty Images.

British prime minister Theresa May has confirmed the country would seek a so-called “hard Brexit” and leave the European single market.

In doing so she set out a vision for a “new global Britain” –- a “trading nation” that will look beyond Europe to “new friends and old allies,” and flagged a trade deal with Australia.

“We want to get out into the wider world, to trade and do business all around the globe,” she said.

“Countries including China, Brazil, and the Gulf states have already expressed their interest in striking trade deals with us. We have started discussions on future trade ties with countries like Australia, New Zealand and India. And president-elect Trump has said Britain is not ‘at the back of the queue’ for a trade deal with the United States, the world’s biggest economy, but front of the line.”

Australia’s high commissioner to the UK Alexander Downer. Photo: Getty Images.

Australia’s high commissioner to the UK Alexander Downer welcomed the opportunity to negotiate a free trade agreement with the UK but recognised the possibility that if further restrictions are applied by the EU it may impact Australia’s negotiations for a free-trade agreement with the much bigger Eurozone.

“We want a free-trade agreement with the European Union and when the UK leaves the EU which is expected in March 2019 if article 50 is triggered in March this year, we want to negotiate a free trade deal with the UK,” Downer told The Australian.

“Theresa May twice mentioned Australia in her speech so the prospects for a free-trade agreement with Australia is uppermost in her mind. She also doesn’t want tariff barriers, but that is less important to us.”

May hopes for a full agreement with the EU by the end of the two-year Brexit process, which is expected to begin in March. But she said the “phased process of implementation” would see some of the new arrangements introduced quickly and others “might take longer”.

The Australian has more.

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