Trade with 70 countries at risk of ‘falling off cliff-edge’, warn MPs

Posted On: 
7th March 2018

A group of influential MPs has warned that failing to roll over EU deals could put trade with 70 nations at risk.

PA Images

There is a “disturbing lack of precision and clarity about the appropriate legal mechanism” which will be used to roll over trade deals with dozens of countries, a new report from the International Trade Committee has warned.

MPs on the committee called for the Department of International Trade to develop a “legally watertight and practically viable strategy” to give businesses and investors clarity over the future of trade agreements the EU has with countries outside of the Union.

Theresa May’s post-Brexit free trade plans shot down by EU adviser

Brussels to pile pressure on Theresa May with draft post-Brexit trade deal guidelines

Theresa May tells Donald Trump of 'deep concern' over trade war threat

The report welcomed the Government’s latest policy of asking for the UK to be treated as if it were still an EU member during the post-Brexit transition, but cautioned that this could be interpreted as a “tacit admission” that the initial deadline for negotiating new agreements may be missed.

“While we welcome the Government’s willingness in this respect to be pragmatic, it is difficult to not to see this as an admission that is policy of negotiating new agreements by March 2019 might not be achieved and may be failing.

“We seek urgent reassurance that the Government is allocation appropriate resources not only to this objective…including the bilateral strand of negotiating these agreements, and that it is being realistic about how achievable those objectives are.”

Chair Angus MacNeil said that despite prioritising the rollover of trade agreements, the Department for International Trade still had to address “a number of thorny issues and significant risks”.

“The Government is making much of the trade agreements it plans to make after Brexit, but first it needs to give us confidence that the existing agreements, on which businesses, consumers and trading partners rely, can be rolled over so the UK can benefit in its own right. Unless an agreement is reached with our trading partners in the coming months, a significant economic price will have to be paid.”

“The Government must not be not be naïve enough to assume that a verbal agreement to maintain the status quo constitutes a watertight guarantee – contingency plans are required.," the SNP MP added.

The report concluded that the Government urgently needed to develop a cross-departmental approach, including both the DIT, the DExEU, and the devolved administrations.