Trade deal offers show post-Brexit world is our oyster

At least 35 countries have expressed an interest in a free trade deal with Brexit Britain, including the United States, Japan, and Australia. Brexit is going to be a bonanza. So drop the pessimism, and get behind it

Dover getting busy for Brexit
Joseph Hackett
On 20 July 2017 05:08

Who would want free trade with Brexit Britain? Plenty of countries, as it turns out. Three important countries -- the United States, Australia, and Japan -- reiterated their commitment to a post-Brexit deal with Britain in the space of a few days recently.

Firstly, at the G20 summit in Hamburg earlier this month, US President Donald Trump said he wanted to see a “very powerful deal, great for both countries,” and predicted it could be concluded “very, very quickly”.

Trump had previously proposed a US-UK free trade deal in January, and by reaffirming his support now, he has shown this was not just a passing comment.

Needless to say, a US-UK trade deal would have great promise. The United States is the world’s largest economy, and is already our second-biggest trading partner (after the EU). Dismantling tariffs and other barriers to transatlantic trade would be a significant boost to both the British and American economies.

The prospect of such a major trade deal also strengthens our hand in negotiating a trade deal with the EU, since a deal with America would at least mitigate the effects of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

Days later, Prime Minister Theresa May hosted her old acquaintance Malcolm Turnbull, the Prime Minister of Australia, at 10 Downing Street. There, Turnbull said he wanted a deal with Brexit Britain “as soon as possible,” saying Australians “move quickly” and “don’t muck around.”

Of course, Australia is not as big an economy as the United States, but it is a resource-rich country and a significant trading partner nonetheless.

Meanwhile, as Remainers hailed the EU agreeing to a trade deal with Japan, Koji Tsuruoka, the Japanese Ambassador to Britain, offered good news for Brexiteers. Tsuruoka said the terms of the deal could also be applied to a UK-Japan deal, since after all, the UK was a driving force in the EU-Japan negotiations.

Tsuruoka said Japan would welcome a free trade agreement with Britain after Brexit, echoing the Japanese Government, which last month announced plans to start informal trade talks with Britain. A free trade deal with Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, would of course be yet another major boost for the British economy.

Remarkably, in over 40 years of managing our trade policy, the EU still has not struck a free trade deal with either the United States or Australia, while the Japan deal could take several years to fully conclude.

The TTIP agreement between the EU and the United States still appears to be years away -- it has already been repeatedly kicked down the road, and complaints from various special interests across the EU make it possible it will never be agreed.

Meanwhile, Turnbull is hoping a trade deal between Australia and the EU will be agreed before Brexit – although given how slow the EU can be to negotiate, this might be a touch optimistic.

When we leave the EU and take back control of our trade policy, it is crucial we, like the Australians, “don’t muck around”. We will already have lost time by complying with the EU’s demand not to enter into any formal negotiations until Brexit talks have concluded. We must seize the day and quickly strike mutually-beneficial free trade deals with the United States, Australia, and Japan.

However, we must not limit our scope to just these three nations. At least 35 countries have expressed an interest in a free trade deal with Brexit Britain. Some of these should be easily achieved, since we already have deals with them as part of the EU -- South Africa, for instance. But many more would be entirely new territory -- markets which we have been unable to properly tap into because of the EU’s lack of ambition.

As we Get Britain Out of the EU and its sclerotic Customs Union, there is every reason to be confident. The United States, Australia, Japan, and many more countries are waiting for us to get around the negotiating table and start making deals with them.

It falls to us to recognise the world is our oyster, act with ambition, and make the most of this Brexit opportunity.

Joseph Hackett is a Research Executive at Get Britain Out

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