Automakers have called for fluid ties “closer to home” following the UK-Australia free trade agreement.

Figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show the UK sold 20,000 cars to Australia in 2019, compared to 578,000 to the EU.

A Downing Street statement claimed the deal with Australia means automakers in the Midlands and northern England will see “tariffs of up to 5% reduced, which will boost demand for their exports.” .

SMMT Managing Director Mike Hawes said: “Australia is an important growth market and the industry welcomes the agreement in principle of a trade agreement between the two countries.

“If tariffs can be avoided, making UK manufacturers more competitive with their international competitors, there is potential for our vehicle exports to increase and we look forward to seeing the details of the deal, so ensure that the agreement is effective for the automotive sector.

“Given the integrated nature of the auto industry, however, and the importance of proximity, we must also ensure smooth trade with markets closer to home.”

The end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 of last year saw the UK’s membership in the EU single market and customs union expire.

Four in five cars made in the UK are exported.

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