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Brexit: European politicians warn Australia not to put trade with Britain first

Julie Bishop and Steve Ciobo speak in Brussels.
PHOTO: Julie Bishop and Steve Ciobo were quizzed about their plans for a UK deal by European politicians.(Twitter: Steven Ciobo)

Australia has been urged to put all trade discussions with Britain on the backburner and concentrate on securing a good agreement with the European Union.

Overnight in Brussels, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Trade Minister Steve Ciobo were quizzed about their plans for a UK deal by several European politicians, who are still reeling from Britain’s decision to exit their organisation.

“You cannot dance with two people at once,” British Labour representative David Martin said.

“If you want to get a serious trade deal with the European Union then you will have to focus on the European Union and make that your sole negotiation. You cannot have side deals and side negotiations with the United Kingdom.”

The UK and Australia cannot hold formal talks until Brexit takes place but at a meeting this week in London,the two countries agreed to establish a Trade Working Group — a move Mr Martin said “was a dangerous strategy for Australia”.

“[Australia] is sending such strong signals to the UK … but the EU-Australia free trade deal negotiations were pushed for by Britain, and a lot of the other countries aren’t particularly worried if it happens or not,” he said.

Other members of the Parliament suggested the UK talks could derail or delay a deal with the 28-member European Union.

EU-Australia trade talks ‘at more mature stage than UK’

Australia is trying to balance the different diplomatic concerns about Brexit in Europe.

All this week, ministers have been simultaneously exploring new options for closer ties with Britain, while trying to make new friends that can help the nation on the continent.

But Mr Ciobo has been at pains to point out EU trade discussions were at a much more “mature” stage than the UK.

“To compare those two I think is comparing apples and oranges,” he said.

“We have mature, advanced discussions with the European Union … and we have the UK remaining a part of the European Union for at least the next two and a half years.”

In Brussels, Eurosceptic politicians praised Australia for discussing post-Brexit trade.

UK Independence Party representative James Carver said Australia should be rewarded, or “first in line” for its stance, and he urged the minsters to ignore criticism from some members in Brussels.

“They’re upset they lost the referendum,” he said.

“You’ve got to look at it from the perspective they didn’t think they’d be in this situation … and they’re really, really unhappy so I don’t think Australia should worry.”

https://www.google.com/url?rct=j&sa=t&url=http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-09/australia-uk-talks-a-dangerous-strategy:-european-politicians/7828276&ct=ga&cd=CAEYDyoTNDU4MDk2MTg4ODg3ODE3NDMzMTIcMDQxNGI3YTJkZTExYzk3NDpjby51azplbjpHQg&usg=AFQjCNF8sIQG7jyyoWHhdQ70Ehgf_0d_RA

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