British Trade Minister Liam Fox fended off criticism in the Parliament, arguing that many countries would find it much easier to strike a trade deal with the UK, than with a bloc of 28 countries.
Britain has so far managed to secure deals with 7 of the 69 countries — UK’s trade partners under preferential EU free trade agreements. The struck agreements account for £16bn of the near-£117bn of British trade with the countries involved.
Given, that in less than two months, the UK may leave the EU without any deal, let alone remaining part of the bloc’s customs union and single market area — British lawmakers barged their criticism onto the Trade Minister on Wednesday.
“If it was so easy, why have we not been able to roll over more than a dozen deals we currently have?” asked SNP’s Stewart Hosie.
While Fox was adamant that the best way to ensure the continuity of current trade arrangement between Britain and other countries is to vote for Theresa May’s deal, he confirmed that if the government fails to “fully replicate” the EU trade deals, it “will set out a technical notice in the coming days.”
The UK has so far has established deals with Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Zimbabwe, Chile, Switzerland and Faroe Islands.
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Bigger fish — including Canada, Japan, South Korea and Turkey — are yet to be secured by the Department for International Trade. Given that Canada, Japan, South Korea and Turkey alone accounted for goods exports worth £25bn in 2017 and imports of merchandise worth £28.6bn — the unease of MPs was expected, amid the fast-approaching Brexit deadline.
“Turkey is in a particular position because of its partial customs union with the EU, which means that until we know the shape of our agreement with the EU, it is difficult to conclude what we are going to do with Turkey,” Liam Fox told the MPs.
According to Fox, the Japanese government signalled their intention to roll over the Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the UK would continue to benefit from it, if a deal is reached between London and Brussels.
While, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has indicated end of last year that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is willing to welcome the UK after it leaves the European Union, he did warn against a disorderly Brexit.
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Liam Fox actively sought to secure post-Brexit trade partnerships at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he met with his counterparts in “key countries” to “ensure our exporters do not face disruption as we [UK] prepare to leave to the EU.”
As he was addressing the Parliament on 13 February, Fox also stressed that five of FTAs represent 76% by the value of the trade that falls in the category of
Hard Brexit would see Britain give up full access to the EU single market and customs union and fall back on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules for trade with its former EU partners.