COMMONS

Secretary of State updates Committee on ‘roll-over’ of EU FTAs

02 July 2019

The International Trade Committee publishes correspondence from Dr Liam Fox MP, Secretary of State for International Trade, ahead of an evidence session on the work of his Department next Wednesday (3 July). This follows a request for an update on the ‘rolling over’ of EU Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) from the Chair of the Committee, Angus Brendan MacNeil MP.

Secretary of State updates Committee on ‘roll-over’ of EU FTAs

The UK is currently party to 40 or so FTAs that the EU has with some 70 countries, accounting for over 14% of UK trade. If these are not ‘rolled over’ by the time Brexit occurs, and the UK departs on a ‘no deal’ basis, their benefits will cease to apply to UK businesses. The Committee has continued to closely monitor how well the Government is progressing in rolling-over these agreements since its report on the subject, published in March 2018.

In the letter, Dr Fox informs the Committee that:

  • DIT “continues to work hard to have bilateral agreements ready for when we need them, whether that is for a No Deal scenario or after an lmplementation Period”;
  • Some partners “have not fully engaged with the prospect that leaving the EU without an agreement remains a possibility”;
  • Negotiations with key trading partner Canada are “at an advanced stage”;
  • He and his Department “continue to explore with Turkey all options for enabling continuity of trade”, noting that Turkey is in a customs union with the EU and therefore it is not possible to fully replicate these arrangements;
  • The EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement will be used “as the basis” for the UK’s future trading relationship with Japan (as the current agreement will not be rolled-over);
  • The recently-announced ‘roll-over’ of agreements with Iceland, Norway and Switzerland do not wholly replicate current trading conditions.

Commenting on the letter, Angus Brendan MacNeil MP said:

“Correspondence from the Secretary of State is always welcome, particularly ahead of our planned evidence session with him next Wednesday. Judging by this latest update, we will not be short of questions – for example, the specifics of what options the Government is considering in respect of the UK’s future relationship with Turkey.

“The Secretary of State has painted a picture of a department plugging away with the essential task of ensuring British businesses can continue to trade in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Nobody doubts their commitment to the cause, but an assertion that he and his team ‘set and adjust priorities dynamically’ merely highlights the extent to which Dr Fox is at the mercy of events outside of his control.

“It is good to see the Government admitting what we have known for a long time – that roll-over agreements don’t ensure total continuity of trading arrangements. The agreements with Iceland, Norway and Switzerland could be more accurately described as ‘partial roll-over agreements’, and we will be exploring the practical impact of this with the Secretary of State next week.

“As the October deadline approaches, and uncertainty mounts for businesses across the UK, my Committee will continue to hold the Department for International Trade to account – including at next Wednesday’s evidence session.”

Committee to question Secretary of State on Wednesday 3 July

As well as the ‘roll-over’ of existing EU FTAs, the Committee will also be cross-examining the Secretary of State on his Department’s other priorities in Wednesday’s evidence session, his seventh appearance before the Committee.

With the UK having secured an extension to Article 50 until 31 October, the Committee will focus primarily on Brexit-related matters, most notably how DIT has made use of the extension, and the implications of the imminent arrival of a new Prime Minister for the UK’s future trade policy.

The Committee will also seek an update on the delayed Trade Bill, as well as the Department’s longer-term strategy, as it looks to negotiate new post-Brexit trade deals around the world.

Witness

Wednesday 3 July, Thatcher Room, Portcullis House

At 10.00 am

  • Rt. Hon. Dr Liam Fox MP, Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade.

Further information

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