Good morning. We’ve been hearing a lot more from Boris Johnson in recent days about the supposed merits of the “Australian option” for Brexit. He was at it again last night, as he warned that failing to strike a trade deal with the EU is now “a strong possibility”. Partly this reflects the Tory spin assumption that any public policy option (points-based immigration system) can be made more palatable by association with Australia, a friendly, English-speaking country with sunny weather. But, as spin, it is also doubly mendacious. The so-called Australian deal is just a euphemism for no deal. And, under this scenario, the UK would not even enjoy the benefits that Australian has in its relationship with the EU.
There is no need to take my word for it. Malcolm Turnbull, the former Australian prime minister, was on Question Time last night and this is what he said when he was asked if the UK should be happy with an Australian-style deal. He replied:
It’ll be pretty disappointing, I think you’ll find out.
We obviously have a deal with the EU on WTO terms, and there are 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.
It’s our third biggest trading partner collectively because it’s such a big economy. But 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, and when I was Prime Minister we started formal negotiations of a European-Australian Free Trade Agreement, but that will take some time.
So be careful what you wish for. Australia’s relationship with the EU is not one from a trade point of view that Britain, I think, would want.
This morning I will largely be focusing on Brexit again, although I will also be keeping an eye on coronavirus and other UK politics. Here is the agenda for the day.
12pm: Downing Street is expected to hold its daily lobby briefing.
12pm: The ONS publishes its weekly coronavirus infection survey.
12.15pm: Nicola Sturgeon is expected to hold her regular coronavirus briefing.
12.15pm: The Welsh government is expected to to hold its regular coronavirus briefing.
Lunchtime: The UK government publishes its latest estimate for R, the reproduction number.
And at some point today Ursula von der Leyen, the European commission president, and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, will hold a press conference at the end of the EU summit.
I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.
If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.