The UK government has failed to demonstrate the economic benefits of its trade deals after Brexit and needs to do more to consult businesses and consumers on future free trade agreements, MPs warned.
In a mixed opinion on the first year of post-Brexit dealmaking, the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee said it was questionable whether the government would meet its target of ensuring 80 percent of all UK trade would be covered by a free trade agreement by the end of this year.
In a report published Friday, the committee urged the government to be more transparent about its dealmaking by better consulting parliament, industry and special interest groups, such as farmers and environmentalists, about the shape of future deals.
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, the commission’s deputy chair, said the international trade department had “really struggled to pinpoint tangible wins for British business, consumers or our own agricultural sector”.
The government was accused by the National Farmers’ Union of ‘treason’ after signing a new deal with Australia in December 2021 in which farmers claimed British farming was being penalized.
The post-Brexit agreements signed so far, including EU-era agreements that have been converted into bilateral agreements, cover a total of 64 percent of UK trade. The UK has started negotiations with India and hopes to improve existing deals with Canada and Mexico.
But the report said that if Washington rules out a quick deal, the government would face “significant challenges” in meeting the 80 percent target, as the US accounts for 16.8 percent of UK trade. .
Even making a deal with India and joining the transpacific CPTPP trading bloc — both deals the government has in its sights — would only contribute 0.4 percent and 1.5 percent to that goal.
Trade policy experts, consumer, agricultural and environmental groups all welcomed the commission’s calls for greater transparency and consultation on future agreements, accusing the government of yielding to key principles in its haste to achieve its goal. reaches.
David Henig, a former UK trade negotiator, said the government was “in denial” about how far it fell short of international best practices on consultation and monitoring. “Hopefully this new report will provide impetus for improvement,” he said.
Nick von Westenholz, trade director at the NFU, said the government’s own impact assessments showed that trade deals with major agricultural exporters, such as Australia, would affect agricultural production in the UK, but little was done to help farmers adapt. to suit.
“Hopefully this report is a wake-up call that we need much better coordination between domestic and trade policies, and that we need to closely monitor the impact of trade agreements as they come online, to better design and adapt policies to ensure ensure that farms benefit,” he said.
Sarah Williams of the Greener UK coalition, which represents 12 major environmental groups, said she was concerned that the government was rushing to sign agreements with partners such as India and the Gulf States, where environmental standards and human rights issues were a concern.
“We’ve already toned down climate commitments to win the deal with Australia,” she said. “We need a coherent strategy with tradeoffs captured during, rather than after, negotiations.”
The government said it deliberately set a high bar with its 80 percent target and launched a new strategy last year to help companies export.
It added: “We take parliamentary scrutiny of FTAs very seriously and have made greater commitments to scrutiny and transparency at every stage of the negotiations, going well beyond our legal requirements.”
This post UK failed to demonstrate benefit of post-Brexit trade deals, MPs warn
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