Britain to benefit from EU-Japan trade deal for just 57 days
The agreement reached after years of negotiations is forecast to boost trade by more than £30 billion a year.
Under the terms of Britain’s withdrawal agreement with the EU, the UK will still participate in the bloc’s 40 free trade agreements during a 21-month transition period.
However, if the UK leaves the EU without a divorce agreement – known as a no-deal Brexit – it will no longer be part of those trade deals.
With MPs having overwhelmingly rejected the prime minister’s withdrawal agreement, senior politicians in both the EU and UK have expressed fears of such an outcome.
The government have promised to try and rollover the trade agreements it enjoys with countries as an EU member after Brexit.
Israel is thought to be the first and only country to have so far agreed a post-Brexit trade deal “in principle” with the UK, with International Trade Secretary Liam Fox welcoming the news at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this month.
Dr Fox previously promised to have “up to 40” trade deals “ready for one second after midnight in March 2019”.
His department has estimated the new EU-Japan trade agreement will boost UK GDP by up to £3bn in the longer term.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable – a supporter of the People’s Vote campaign for a second EU referendum – said: “The EU’s trade deal with Japan took years to negotiate and runs to thousands of pages.
“But British business will worry that they might only enjoy the benefits for a few weeks if we crash out of the EU in March.
“We were told it would be the easiest thing ever to leave the EU, but this deal shows that there is no form of Brexit that fulfils the promises made for Brexit.
“Losing access to this trade deal will leave the UK with a worse deal than we already have inside the EU.
“For Britain to sign its own trade deal with Japan will take Liam Fox years, and meanwhile the uncertainty will go on and on for British business, costing this country jobs, skills and investment.
“Liam Fox previously said the EU was in decline and that we need to leave to maximise growth opportunities.
“Since then the EU has negotiated two new major free trade deals and Liam Fox has negotiated none, and more than that, he cannot even guarantee we will keep the trade deals we already have with over 65 countries as members of the EU.”
Downing Street said “good progress” was being made on the UK signing its own post-Brexit trade agreement with Japan.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Theresa May met with her Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe.
After their talks, she welcomed Mr Abe’s “renewed commitment” to an “ambitious bilateral arrangement, building on the deal already agreed between Japan and the EU”.
A Department for International Trade spokesman said: “The UK has long supported the EU-Japan EPA and we will continue to do so as one of the most vocal supporters of free and fair trade globally.
“The UK-Japan trade and investment working group was established in 2017 to build a stronger trading relationship between the UK and Japan, and discussions between officials are continuing.”
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