'We should put Australia at the top of our trade list, say Britons' By Edward Malnick, The Telegraph
Australia is the top country with which Britons believe the UK should be trading more, according to a new poll.
A survey found that 65 per cent of respondents supported a free-trade deal with Australia. The country also topped a list of nations with which people believe the UK should increase trade, including the US, New Zealand, China and Japan.
Britain is on the verge of signing a trade deal with Australia, following negotiations led by Liz Truss, the international trade secretary.
The negotiations sparked a split in the Cabinet over the potential impact of a zero-tariff, zero-quota deal on Australian meat imports on British farmers.
However a briefing paper by the Adam Smith Institute, the free market think tank, says that Britons "believe that British farmers can and should compete globally ... and do not consider protecting farmers to be a reason worth blocking the deal."
A C|T Group survey of 1,500 British adults and 1,500 Australians, for the Adam Smith Institute, found that 66 per cent of respondents favoured more trade with Australia, compared to 48 per cent advocating more trade with the US, and 42 per cent with Japan.
Some 70 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that “Free trade is generally a good thing, and benefits all sides."
In total, 64 per cent of UK respondents said that British farmers should compete on an equal basis with foreign imports of the same standards, while 52 per cent said consumers should not be denied access to Australian farming goods produced at a lower price.
Two-thirds (66 per cent) of those surveyed suggested that they believed Australia had high standards of food safety and animal welfare, compared to 6 per cent who said Australia has low standards.
Some 63 per cent said they would support a trade deal with Australia even if it would result in reduced profits for British farmers and some British farmers going out of business.
Just 20 of respondents would opt to block a deal to prevent British farmers facing more competition.
More than half (52 per cent) of respondents would opt for Australian beef as an alternative to British beef, while just 24 per cent would opt for EU beef.
A Department of International Trade source said: "This is precisely why we left the EU - to strike out beyond Europe and deepen ties with nations like Australia who share our values and commitment to high standards in areas like food and animal welfare.
"The public are right to have faith in a deal. It will boost exports from whisky to services, supporting jobs here at home, and mean more choice on our supermarket shelves.
"A deal will help lock in our divergence from the EU and pivot Britain towards faster-growing markets in Asia Pacific."
Dr Michael Turner, a fellow at the Adam Smith Institute, said: “Brits clearly believe in the core benefits of free trade, but also the ability of British farmers and businesses to seize the opportunity that a UK-Australia trade deal will provide.
"Brits back British farmers to compete and grow their businesses, and a majority say they feel British goods will be in high demand down under. From Tim Tams to Cornish pasties, Aussie beef to British cheese, the results show consumers in both countries have a healthy and reciprocal appetite to consume goods made in each other's countries.
"Contrary to the popular narrative of the inward-looking and protectionist Brexit voter, this research shows that the overwhelming majority of those who voted to Leave the EU in 2016, are in fact supportive of a more outwardly-focused and freely trading Britain post-Brexit.
"Not only are Leavers more likely than Remainers to understand the benefits of free trade, but they are also less likely than Remainers to want industries protected from competition through tariff hikes."
The imminent trade deal between the UK and Australia is seen as a crucial stepping stone towards joining the wider Asia-Pacific bloc.
Scott Morrison, the Australian prime minister, could sign an agreement in principle as soon as this week, when he arrives in Britain for the G7 summit.
By Edward Malnick, The Telegraph
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