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Sunak vows not to ‘sacrifice quality for speed’ in search for trade deals

The UK must not “sacrifice quality for speed” in trade negotiations, Rishi Sunak said after scathing criticism of the Australian agreement from a former Cabinet minister.

The Prime Minister, who has previously described the deal with Australia as “one-sided”, said there was always “give or take” in trade talks.

His comments came after former environment secretary George Eustice said the deals negotiated with Australia and New Zealand included provisions that were not in the economic interests of the UK, with the Government giving away “far too much” to secure the post-Brexit accords.

G20 summit
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was speaking at the G20 summit in Bali (Leon Neal/PA)

Mr Eustice criticised the approach adopted by then-trade secretary Liz Truss in pursuing the deals.

Mr Sunak, speaking at the G20 summit in Bali where he is expected to hold talks with Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese on Wednesday, indicated he would not repeat the mistakes made by Ms Truss.

“What I would say is going forward, I want to make sure that we don’t sacrifice quality for speed when it comes to trade deals. And that’s going to be my approach,” he told the BBC.

Asked if he would ratify the Australia deal, Mr Sunak said: “In trade deals there’s always a degree of give or take and there are many positives from this deal but it is right going forward that we don’t sacrifice quality for speed.

“I want to take the time to get trade deals right. Right for Britain. I think that’s the right approach and that’s what we will do going forward.”

Mr Eustice repeated his criticism when speaking to The News Agents podcast, suggesting that the approach taken by Ms Truss “undermined” the UK’s negotiating position.

“By setting a timescale she undermined our negotiating position and yes, that of course, meant that the final terms were suboptimal, not as good as they should have been,” he said.

Suggesting that she took an “ideological” approach to the deal, he said: “The negotiations started to go wrong when she decided that we should conclude a trade deal or conclude heads of terms of it by the G7 summit, because we then set the clock against our own negotiators.”