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Australia to keep trade calm after Brexit

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Minister for Trade Simon Birmingham speaks to the media alongside SA Premier Steven Marshall in Adelaide, Thursday, January 10, 2019. (AAP Image/Roy VanDerVegt)

Australia will attempt to keep trade as steady as possible following the crushing defeat of the Brexit deal in the British parliament, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says.

Senator Birmingham said the government had a "belt and braces" approach to Brexit, with negotiations ongoing with the EU and a working group established with the UK to keep trade ticking along.

"These are quite extraordinary and uncertain times," he told ABC Radio National on Wednesday.

"It could lead in any number of directions it seems from here, with just 73 days to go now until the scheduled date for Brexit to take effect."

British MPs voted 432-202 against Prime Minister Theresa May's deal for the UK to leave the EU on Wednesday morning Australian time, delivering her government a crushing blow.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the uncertainty was bad for the British people, but urged Australia to focus on trade opportunities.

"I think what we've got to do is make sure we maintain good relationships with Europe and with Britain, and we and get the advantages we can for our businesses," Mr Shorten told the Nine Network.

He said if elected prime minister he could work with either Ms May or Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn to advance Australian interests.

The date set in law for Brexit, March 29, now looms with Britain deeply divided on if the country should or how to leave Europe.

© AAP 2019