Australia and Britain Take on the World
Boris Johnson is still the politician most likely to be the British Prime Minister after Brexit in 2019 so it’s interesting to hear what his world view is in this contemporary Trump dominated environment.
At his meetings, accompanied by his colleague, Secretary of State for Defence Sir Michael Fallon, with Australian Foreign and Defence Ministers, Julie Bishop and Marise Payne, the focus was on cyber-security, Chinese military activity, and the threat from North Korea.
It also touched on the Middle East and Britain’s future trade and economic relations.
Before the meetings Foreign Secretary Johnson made a point of emphasising that Brexit was not a case of the United Kingdom retreating into little Britain or an expression of populist politics.
He said that it was rather an opportunity for Britain to become an even more internationalist and open economy.
He emphasised this by saying that he intended to engage more with Asia than Britain was able to do when its external affairs were managed by the European Commission.
This has implications for the Australian economy since it may lead to UK institutions locating to Australia as a base for penetrating the Asian market because we have a substantial Asian diaspora who can be employed for this purpose.
The UK government is also anxious to negotiate a free trade agreement with Australia.
The Foreign Secretary said that he was hopeful this would be concluded as soon as Britain exits the European Union, as Australia and Britain need to be bound tightly together in an uncertain world.
Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne said that North Korea was a significant subject of discussion and disclosed that the meeting was in possession of new intelligence about the prospect of North Korea having long-range nuclear weap-ons.
The British were also likely to have raised BAE Systems’ chances of winning the contract to build nine frigates for the Australian navy.
This was the first formal meeting of the Australia - UK Ministerial (AUKMIN) talks since the British election and it demonstrated the strength of the bilateral relationship.
Boris Johnson has been impressive as a leader who believes in open economies and principled foreign relations based on strong international rules.
Subscribe to Inside Canberra
Image Source - Chatham House