Australia and UK pledge closer security ties on Boris Johnson visit

Australia and Britain have pledged to strengthen their military, intelligence and trade ties as the UK prepares to exit from the European Union.

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The pledge was made by foreign and defence ministers from both countries during their annual talks in Sydney on Thursday.

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In a joint statement the ministers said they would cooperate on military activities in the Asia region, share more classified information, as well as swap details on getting the military to help with domestic counter-terrorism operations.

“Australia and the UK will work together to find opportunities to conduct cooperative activities in the region whenever we have military assets in the same area at the same time,” the ministers said.

Both countries plan to share more classified information about their defence and security arrangements.

Following a spate of terrorist attacks in Britain, the ministers have also agreed to swap notes on how to coordinate the involvement of their respective military forces in domestic counter-terrorism operations, and what they call post-attack rehabilitation.

On trade, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told reporters his country wanted to work more closely with Australia as the UK exited the European Union.

“We have today reaffirmed our shared goal of concluding a free trade agreement as soon as possible after we leave the EU,” he said.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the UK agreement, which would be “high quality and comprehensive”, would come shortly after Australia concluded a deal with the EU.

Ms Bishop said Britain was a “natural partner” to work with Australia on the development and security of the Pacific, noting the ministers had discussed the return of foreign fighters, China, North Korea and the threat of ISIS in the Philippines.

The UK and Australia plan to hold a leadership forum in 2018, featuring business, government, academics and community leaders.

They will also co-chair an international workshop on human trafficking and modern slavery at the Australian High Commission in London.

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