Brexiteers fear the Government’s proposals, outlined in a White Paper last week, will destroy Britain’s ability to make trade deals with other countries because they would force us to abide by a EU common rule book.
Alexander Downer, who left the diplomatic post in April after four years, said that provided Australia was able to negotiate a special deal with Britain on tariffs and quotas continued alignment with the EU “probably wouldn’t be a problem”.
Australia is heavily penalised by tariffs and quotas on exports to EU countries including Britain. For example, there is a 15 per cent tariff on footwear.
Australian brands such as Ugg and RM Williams are very popular in the UK.
Mr Downer said: “If the White Paper allows us to negotiate an agreement bilaterally with the UK to eliminate tariffs and quotas then that’s what we want.
“The regulatory regime is a separate issue and it’s very unlikely the UK wants to start changing food safety standards that are aligned with the EU to suit Australia but that’s not likely to be a problem.
“The EU bans hormone-injected beef products so we wouldn’t consider selling hormone-injected beef to the UK.”
Mr Downer, who is a former leader of Australia’s Right-leaning Liberal Party, has previously warned Britain will become an “irrelevancy” if it remains in the customs union.
But he appeared relaxed about the idea of the UK entering into a post-Brexit “facilitated customs arrangement” with Brussels.
He said: “I think the objections have been over-hyped.
“The White Paper is not an impediment to free trade from what I can see.
“You might not get as good a free trade deal but you’ll still get a pretty reasonable one.”