William Bain, Head of Trade Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Businesses will welcome this Agreement in Principle as a step forward. However, there is a long way to go before the signing and implementation of a free trade deal. It should also be pointed out that trade with Australia represents only around 1.2% of the UK’s total, so whilst a deal will have welcome benefits it will not offset the ongoing issues with trade to the European Union.
“Today’s agreement opens the door to a free trade agreement in force next year with lower tariffs, modern rules of origin for certain manufactured goods, customs facilitation measures, mutual recognition of qualifications, a labour mobility scheme, and stronger market access for services between the UK and Australia.
“Businesses remained concerned about the lack of opportunities to properly scrutinise trade deals including this one. There needs to be more in-depth industry consultation, particularly in sectors considered sensitive, to better analyse UK’s offensive and defensive strategic interests and the impact on other agreements.
“Ultimately it is businesses not governments that trade, and this deal with Australia needs to be complemented by providing practical, on the ground, support to help firms maximise the new opportunities the agreement will bring.
“We urge the Government to engage closely with businesses over the coming months on how to get the most value out of the final agreement. Chambers of Commerce stand ready to work with government to ensure that the benefits of this agreement are felt by firms as widely as possible.”