London: One of Boris Johnson's closest allies has slammed Julia Gillard's comments casting doubt on the likelihood of the UK and Australia striking a free trade deal immediately after Brexit.
Nigel Adams, the UK's sports minister and close friend to Prime Minister Boris Johnson told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age Ms Gillard's views were irrelevant to ordinary Britons.
"Quite the intervention?" Adams wrote on Twitter in response to the Herald's report.
"Her views will have zero impact on the views of ordinary Britons but her comments will give metropolitan Remoaners something to retweet," he said.
On Friday Gillard used a television appearance on the BBC's Politics Live program to warn Britons against expecting any “economic bonanza” from any trade deal with Australia. And she said she felt a responsibility to remind the UK, that in her experience, trade deals take years to negotiate, comments which undermine the UK and Australian governments which have both said they hope to strike a deal within months, if not weeks of Brexit.
But her comments were supported by chair of the Commons Trade committee, Angust MacNeil, whose Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) backs the UK staying in the EU, as well as Scotland quitting the Kingdom.
"Like a free trade with America, a free trade deal with Australia will be a fraction of what is lost in GDP terms by Brexit," Mr MacNeil said on Sunday.
He said a US-UK trade deal would only make up about a "30th or 40th" of what the UK would lose by Brexit, while a deal with Australia would only make up a "300th or 400th" of the GDP lost.
"It is good to see former Prime Minister Gillard giving the necessary truth to the deluded Brexiteers of England who are away in a fantasy world, completely."
Gillard's assessment of the period of time it takes Australia and the UK to negotiate a deal could soon be put to the test, with Johnson insisting that he will not delay Brexit, despite the revelation in a Scottish court that he would comply with a law requesting an extension if there is no deal struck in a fortnight's time.
"New deal or no deal – but no delay," the prime minister wrote on Twitter.
This is looking increasingly likely, after Ireland said it could not abide his compromises, which involve an all-island regulatory zone, customs checks away from the border and gives the Northern Ireland assembly a veto over future trading arrangements.
Brexit is set for Halloween and Johnson has made a "do or die" pledge that Britain will leave on that date, because after two delays, the country wants to get Brexit done.
But like his predecessor Theresa May, he is being frustrated by the Commons which last month passed a law effectively ruling out a No Deal Brexit on 31 October, compelling him to request an extension from the EU.
Johnson and his ministers are adamant that they will obey the law while at the same time refusing to delay Brexit, but are refusing to state how they will achieve this outcome.
Britain's Telegraph reported Johnson may appeal to an EU member state, possibly Hungary, requesting it veto any request for an extension. Johnson has repeatedly said the EU also wants to move on from Brexit.
As soon as the UK leaves the common market it can begin formally negotiating trade deals with new countries.
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