Rushing into a trade deal with the US would be a 'catastrophic error', warn MPs

Posted On: 
1st May 2018

It would be a “catastrophic error” for the UK to rush into a trade deal with the US after Brexit, an influential group of MPs has warned.

The US has indicated that it is keen to strike a trade deal with the UK once it leaves the European Union
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MPs on the International Trade Committee urged the Government to avoid the "tempting prize" of striking a quick deal with the world’s largest economy without first creating a comprehensive trade strategy - and urged them to spell out protections for public services.

The new report from the Committee says that any deal with the US could bring fundamental change to the UK's regulatory framework and warns ministers not to conduct trade negotiations "in silos".

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The US has already indicated that regulatory concessions on data sharing and food standards could be necessary to strike a deal.

But the MPs warn that a failure to guarantee that public services will be protected ahead of negotiations could "readily lead" to a backlash from the public, similar to that seen during the controversial EU-US TTIP trade negotiations.

“The Government should also ensure there is no ambiguity in its position on the protection of UK public services in a UK-US trade deal, and in all future trade negotiations," they say.

"Universal access to NHS healthcare is an accepted fact of life in the UK and must not be compromised by a UK-US agreement.

"Such a move could readily lead to the kind of widespread opposition seen during negotiations of the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.”

In a speech last night, Trade Secretary Liam Fox hit back at what he called the “irresponsible myths” that public services could be impacted by trade deals.

He said: “We must take head-on the destructive arguments of the anti-trade lobby whose narrative is that free trade is nothing more than a global corporate conspiracy, a front for their wider ideological anti-capitalist agenda”.

Committee Chair Angus MacNeil warned that striking a deal with the US without a full analysis of potential impacts on the UK economy would be a “catastrophic error”.

"As the UK’s largest single-country trade partner, it is easy to understand why the Government wants to promote freer trade with the US, and it is undeniable that some sectors of the UK economy could benefit from reduced regulatory barriers and improved market access in the US," he said.

“But it would be a catastrophic error to rush into negotiations with the US without a comprehensive trade strategy. The economic benefits of a US deal are presently unproven.

"The government appears to be engaged in an exercise in doublethink: on the one hand telling us that new trade deals will be the pot of gold at the end of the Brexit rainbow, while simultaneously saying it’s too soon to offer a realistic estimate of the possible contents or benefits a deal with its highest-priority target.”