Australia and the UK are talking about a post-Brexit trade deal.
Australian trade minister Steven Ciobo said the bonds between the two countries meant talks could be completed quickly. But with the UK unable to sign deals while still in the European Union, he said an agreement was at least two-and-a-half years away.
And worryingly, a separate deal between Australia and the EU is looming.
Mr Ciobo said the timing of a deal will be dictated by the UK. “.
Formal negotiations would have to wait until Brexit had been completed, but Mr Ciobo said “preliminary discussions around what a post-Brexit Australia-UK trade deal might look like” were taking place already.
Australia would be “well and truly engrossed in negotiations” over its on-going deal with the EU in the meantime, with formal talks due to begin next year, he said.
The UK has no trained trade negotiators of its own, because it cannot sign deals while an EU member – and Mr Ciobo said he had offered to loan Australian experts to the UK for the talks.
Mr Ciobo has agreed with the UK that officials would meet twice a year to discuss the parameters of what both sides hoped would be an “ambitious and comprehensive” deal.