Brussels laid down the gauntlet to Britain on trade today – as it launched talks on a deal with Australia and New Zealand.
The EU said the decision to begin formal negotiations showed that the bloc was ‘open’ to the world and a pact would be ‘win win’ for all sides.
Officials hope a trade deal will add around £10billion to the GDP of EU states – although there is set to be fierce haggling over food and agricultural goods.
The move will increase the pressure on the UK, as ministers have vowed that freedom to forge our own trade links will be one of the main benefits from Brexit.
The EU’s top trade official Cecilia Malmstrom (pictured) welcomed the talks mandate claiming a trade deal would be ‘win-win’
Cabinet big beasts including Liam Fox and Boris Johnson have championed stronger ties with Australia and New Zealand, repeatedly visiting the countries and talking up the chances of a quick deal.
The start of trade talks was signed off by a gathering of EU ministers today after a protracted ‘scoping’ period.
The EU’s top trade official Cecilia Malmstrom welcomed the mandate claiming a pact would be ‘win-win’.
‘Starting these talks between likeminded partners sends a strong signal at a time where many are taking the easy road of protectionism,’ she added.
A statement from the EU made clear the emphasis would be on industrial and manufacturing sectors.
There will be strong resistance from European farmers to allowing unfettered access for meat and dairy products from the southern hemisphere.
‘The mandates do not envisage full liberalisation of trade in agricultural products, which are foreseen as benefiting from specific treatment,’ an EU statement said.
Bulgarian finance minister Emil Karanikolov, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said: ‘Today’s decision to open trade talks with Australia and New Zealand is… a reminder to the world of the EU’s commitment to openness, free trade and global cooperation.’
Earlier this week the US ambassador to London said Britain would be at the ‘front of the line’ for a trade deal after Brexit.
Cabinet big beasts including Boris Johnson (pictured on a visit to Australia last year next to counterpart Julie Bishop) have championed stronger ties with southern hemisphere states after Brexit
Woody Johnson said Donald Trump had been ‘pretty clear’ about his determination to tighten links with the UK as he understands the importance of the Special Relationship.
‘He’s made this pretty clear all the way through that the UK’s going to be at the front of the line,’ Mr Johnson said.
‘That Special Relationship is very important between our two countries – prosperity and security has never been closer, he knows how important it is.’
Asked if the deal would be better for America than Britain, he said: ‘My knowledge of the British business community is they’re very, very tough negotiators and I would never put them as second place to anybody.
‘If there’s anybody capable of making a good deal, it’s the British; very seasoned, very experienced, very intelligent. I think a mutual good deal is on the cards, it’s going to happen.’
Appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain this week, US ambassador Woody Johnson insisted there would be a good trade deal with the UK