The priority in the short-term is simply hanging on to what we already haveby Allie Renison / November 6, 2018 / Leave a comment
When it comes to sorting out the UK’s post-Brexit trade arrangements, we are doing an awful lot just to stand still. Across a number of fronts, we’re expending every effort simply to achieve the “prize” of continuity.
This is true of the Brexit negotiations themselves. While our new relationship with the EU will change—or come with a “different balance of rights and obligations” as the prime minister put it—keeping trade with the bloc as frictionless as possible is still among the government’s principal stated aims.
But it is particularly true when you look at our trade arrangements with the world at large. Through our EU membership, we’ve been party to preferential trade deals with numerous countries across the globe. It’s now the Department for International Trade’s job to “roll over” these existing arrangements, so we don’t lose them upon leaving the EU. This is vitally important but it will not be easy.
Not being able to roll over these agreements would mean losing preferential access to Mexico and Chile, South Africa and South Korea among others. While our commerce with these countries isn’t wholly reliant on EU-brokered access, the deals still present a boon for businesses exporting to them. So while it was the prospect of negotiating brand new trade deals that whetted the appetite of many ahead of the referendum, for businesses and for Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, the focus is first and foremost on holding onto what we have.
Contrary to some criticisms, this doesn’t mean that Brexit is some kind of damage-limitation exercise. Addressing the potential risks naturally takes priority at the moment—a complex supply chain in the hand is worth two in the bush, at least in the short term. This has also been a feature of debate across the pond, where the prospect of new tariffs and the loss of existing trade deals like NAFTA has grabbed attention far more than any new trade agreement ever would. Though the US-EU trade negotiations under the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) piqued interest, it never galvanised the business community like the threat of damage to America’s existing trade relationships has managed to.
“A complex supply chain in the hand is worth two in the bush”
But the problem for the UK is, maintaining the deals we currently have in place poses a unique challenge. Not only will we be negotiating on…