20 Jun

Theresa May, Brexit complicates Boris Johnson’s trip to Australia, Dennis Shanahan, The Australian

Boris Johnson’s planned trip to Australia is being complicated by uncertainty about Theresa May’s leadership of the British Conservative Party and deadlines for Brexit talks with Europe and the government’s Parliamentary agenda.

The British Foreign Secretary has been planning to attend the Australia-United Kingdom Ministerial meeting (AUKMIN) in Sydney, expected this month or early in July, for some time but Conservative government uncertainty is causing confusion about timing for his trip to Australia.

Mr Johnson, and UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, are to hold crucial discussions with Australia over free trade agreements after Brexit, troop commitments in the Middle East and Afghanistan, ISIS terrorism, co-operation on counter terrorism and Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea.

All these topics were discussed last year with Australia-British trade deals a top priority as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.

The meeting would help set the framework for Australian-UK relations ahead of the G20 meeting in Germany in the second week of July where Malcolm Turnbull will have the chance to meet various leaders including the British Prime Minister.

But doubts about the timing and personnel for the AUKMIN talks have arisen since the disastrous Conservative UK election result.

The British Prime Minister has been under internal pressure to step down with suggestions Mr Johnson could be a contender to replace her.

Mrs May faces a leadership test next week with MPs threatening a vote of no confidence in her after the Queen delivers the Government’s agenda to Parliament on June 28.

The AUKMIN meeting, involving the British Foreign and Defence Secretaries and the Australian Foreign and Defence Ministers, is held every year and goes turnabout with the 2016 meeting held in Chelsea, London. The Australian meeting was scheduled to be in Sydney, and arrangements were being made before the UK election.

It is now understood the program is being renegotiated at a vital time for Mr Johnson to remain in London and uncertainty about the Brexit negotiations.

Last year Mr Johnson and Mr Fallon said the talks were essential, had built on positive talks between Prime Ministers May and Turnbull at the G20 Summit in China and set out priorities for this year’s talks.

Mr Johnson said “it was more vital than ever before that Australia and the United Kingdom work together”.

Australia’s other key bilateral defence and foreign relations talks with the United States — AUSMIN — were also delayed and agreed in confusion after the US Presidential election meant a new administration came in with new personnel.

Boris Johnson’s planned trip to Australia is being complicated by uncertainty about Theresa May’s leadership of the British Conservative Party and deadlines for Brexit talks with Europe and the government’s Parliamentary agenda.

The British Foreign Secretary has been planning to attend the Australia-United Kingdom Ministerial meeting (AUKMIN) in Sydney, expected this month or early in July, for some time but Conservative government uncertainty is causing confusion about timing for his trip to Australia.

Mr Johnson, and UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, are to hold crucial discussions with Australia over free trade agreements after Brexit, troop commitments in the Middle East and Afghanistan, ISIS terrorism, co-operation on counter terrorism and Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea.

All these topics were discussed last year with Australia-British trade deals a top priority as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.

The meeting would help set the framework for Australian-UK relations ahead of the G20 meeting in Germany in the second week of July where Malcolm Turnbull will have the chance to meet various leaders including the British Prime Minister.

But doubts about the timing and personnel for the AUKMIN talks have arisen since the disastrous Conservative UK election result.

The British Prime Minister has been under internal pressure to step down with suggestions Mr Johnson could be a contender to replace her.

Mrs May faces a leadership test next week with MPs threatening a vote of no confidence in her after the Queen delivers the Government’s agenda to Parliament on June 28.

The AUKMIN meeting, involving the British Foreign and Defence Secretaries and the Australian Foreign and Defence Ministers, is held every year and goes turnabout with the 2016 meeting held in Chelsea, London. The Australian meeting was scheduled to be in Sydney, and arrangements were being made before the UK election.

It is now understood the program is being renegotiated at a vital time for Mr Johnson to remain in London and uncertainty about the Brexit negotiations.

Last year Mr Johnson and Mr Fallon said the talks were essential, had built on positive talks between Prime Ministers May and Turnbull at the G20 Summit in China and set out priorities for this year’s talks.

Mr Johnson said “it was more vital than ever before that Australia and the United Kingdom work together”.

Australia’s other key bilateral defence and foreign relations talks with the United States — AUSMIN — were also delayed and agreed in confusion after the US Presidential election meant a new administration came in with new personnel.

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