Britain is “a bit gloomy” about Brexit and can achieve success outside the European Union, Australia’s high commissioner to the UK has said. Alexander Downer said the UK could be “cautiously optimistic” about achieving a new free trade deal with the EU, and could forge a new and successful economic policy if it pursued the right path domestically.
Mr Downer cited Australia’s decisions in the wake of Britain first joining the European Union and the end of preferential trade arrangements between Commonwealth countries.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “I think you are a bit gloomy. Of course this is a big transition that you’re going through and there’s much contention about the negotiations, which are negotiations.”
“But our experience of major changes like this, and we had such a major change as the Commonwealth preference system was phased out and eventually Britain joined the European Union in 1973, that you are going to succeed depending on what policies you pursue subsequently.”
He said it was possible for the UK to conclude a successful negotiation with the EU.
“You have a motive to conclude a successful negotiation, so does the EU, so prima facie you have some basis for being cautiously optimistic that an agreement ultimately can be reached,” Mr Downer said.
“It’ll involve compromises though, so both sides won’t get exactly what they want.”
The high commissioner also said Australia’s experience showed it was possible to do new trade deals without accepting free of movement of people.
He added: “As outsiders we’re very anxious that both the EU and you do reach an agreement. Not just the UK of course, the onus is on the EU as well to make sure you don’t erect barriers.”
“But secondly, it seems to us from our own experience that if you in addition, not instead of, but in addition, to that go out and negotiate trade arrangements with other parts of the world, you can make your approach more global and less regional than it might otherwise be.”