Tony Abbott, the Australian former PM, and other conservative analysts are calling for a Commonwealth focus to post-Brexit trade deals.
Source: Image Courtesy: APEC 2013, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia | Wikimedia Commons
Former Australian PM Tony Abbott has backed a report calling on the UK to leave the European Union's customs union so that it can strike free trade deals with "economically advanced" Commonwealth countries such as India, Canada and Australia.
Published by the think-tank, the Free Enterprise Group
, the report said that such trade deals would go "hand-in-hand" with relaxing visa restrictions on skilled Commonwealth migrants wanting to work in the UK.
The publication on Tuesday of the report came on the heels of comments by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who claimed the UK would be "first in line" for a trade deal with the US when Donald Trump becomes president later this month.
The share of UK exports to Commonwealth countries is growing
The call for a post-Brexit Britain to concentrate on Commonwealth deals came in a report co-authored by Tory MP James Cleverly and Tim Hewish, director of policy and research at the Royal Commonwealth Society.
It said that eight per cent of UK exports already go to Commonwealth countries and that the share that was growing. It added that Britain was also the largest destination in the EU for exports for countries such as Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa, giving the Commonwealth nations a strong incentive to strike a deal.
Commenting on the report, Mr Abbott said: "The best way to ensure that free trade has few losers, even in the short term, is to begin with much freer trade between like-minded countries with comparable standards of living. Free trade agreements with economically advanced Commonwealth countries are the obvious place for Britain to start."
Mr Cleverly added: "The government must a publish a plan to utilise the 'Commonwealth advantage' and build our trade links with the Commonwealth. A market of 2.3 billion people and some of the fastest-growing economies in the world is too big an opportunity to ignore."
Boris Johnson's US trip - UK will be first in line to do a trade deal with the US
Meanwhile, on a trip to the US, Mr Johnson contradicted Barack Obama's warning during the EU referendum campaign that Britain would be at the "back of the queue" for a trading agreement if it voted - as it did - to leave the EU.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson speaking at Chatham House in London, December 2016
After hurriedly-arranged talks in New York with two of Mr Trump's senior advisers, Mr Johnson - who once joked that he would not visit parts of New York because of the "real risk of meeting Donald Trump" - praised the president-elect's agenda.
"Clearly, the Trump administration-to-be has a very exciting agenda of change. One thing that won't change though is the closeness of the relationship between the US and the UK," he said.
"We are the number two contributor to defence in Nato. We are America's principal partner in working for global security and, of course, we are great campaigners for free trade.
"We hear that we are first in line to do a great free trade deal with the United States. So, it's going to be a very exciting year for both our countries."
Mr Johnson, who also held talks in Washington with senior Republicans, met Mr Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Steve Bannon, chief strategist to the incoming president.For more news and features about the impact of Brexit in the UK and across the globe, visit our Brexit section.The following sections may also be of interest: Enterprise, International AssignmentsAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online Directory Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit