Conference season is here, and Brexit will dominate. But the big policy questions haven't gone away. Prospect asked politicians to set out what they had to say on the practical issues—here, two MPs give their trade prospectusby Julia Lopez, Barry Gardiner / September 13, 2018 / Leave a comment
Post-Brexit trade policy “will not be easy”
Julia Lopez Conservative MP for Hornchurch and Upminster, member of the Trade Select Committee
To Brexit’s dreamiest proponents, the UK’s decision to leave the EU will reignite the Commonwealth as a trading bloc and herald a glorious new era of global free trade. To its fiercest sceptics, it will leave us a minnow with neither the regulatory heft nor market size to negotiate decent free trade agreements (FTAs).
As ever, reality nestles somewhere between the hyperbole. Our urgent priority must be to define our future relationship with the EU in a way that leaves room for an independent trade policy. The prime minister laid out her own preference for those ties in the Chequers plan, proposing to bind the UK by treaty to EU rules on goods and agriculture in exchange for frictionless trade. This would severely limit the scope and value of any new FTAs we might strike.
We must return to the option of a comprehensive EU-UK FTA. The Trade and Customs Bills make way for a UK Trade Remedies Authority to oversee future trade arrangements and offset any potential increase in post-Brexit tariffs. We are submitting our schedules as an independent member of the World Trade Organisation. However, we face a challenge from nations like the US and New Zealand over the divvying up of tariff rate quotas, which affect the volume of goods third countries can export to the EU tariff-free.
The government rightly sees Australia and New Zealand as good places to start with deals. New Zealand was the first country to strike an FTA with China. Both Antipodean nations have suggested smarter ways to work together, for example in fulfilling the demands of the burgeoning Chinese middle classes.
We can also give fresh impetus to the dismantling of barriers to digital trade, playing a more active role in the development of global standards for the kinds of services that now account for 80 per cent of the UK economy.
The US and UK have already set up a working group to discuss stronger trading ties post-Brexit. This work needs to be accelerated. Without transparency and informed public debate, intelligent analysis of the pros and cons of any US-UK…