We have an inkling that Brexit will impact Australian trade opportunities with the UK, and possibly Europe. But what would this look like in practice for companies exporting goods and services into the UK or participating in UK tenders? It may have appeared that Brexit is pie in the sky, and thus not worthy of too much consideration. But UK polls clearly reflect a public sentiment in line with the “Leavers”, and we’ve seen plenty of public hand-wringing by bureaucrats about the dangers of Brexit, and rightly so.

The existing EU-Australia Partnership Framework sets out co-operation on multi-lateral trade, and reduces barriers to trade by introducing a more level playing field including standardising technical assessment procedures. For instance the CE electrical standards. Australia exports to Europe totaled $AUD 22.7BN with $AUD8.6BN to the UK alone during 2014-15. (Austrade). There is presently no Free Trade Agreement with Europe in place as yet. Post Brexit, any trade benefits enabled through the EU Framework will likely cease to apply to arrangements with the UK.

Under the Lisbon Treaty 2009, the UK will only have two years to negotiate the terms of its exit from the EU. Will anyone have time to assess the repercussions on existing trading partners, such as Australia? What would the existence of such a transition mean for companies engaged in exporting goods & services to the UK? Could it be argued that agreements concluded during this period under UK/EU terms can be challenged at some future date for instance? It is likely that the UK be able to impose its own specifications and standards on companies post the two year period.

One hopes that in the preceding months someone in federal government has had the wherewithal to start mapping out what an interim trade arrangement with the UK (and the EU for that matter) might look like, and lobby for Australian firms. The next 24 hours will be telling, and it will be a long night. Better put the kettle on..