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September 11, 2020, 10.07 PM

LONDON, - As discussions with the EU appearing on the brink of collapse, the UK has secured a post-Brexit trade deal with Japan.

The agreement between the UK and Japan was signed on Friday making it Britain’s first major post-Brexit trade deal.

The deal has so far only been agreed upon in principle and details are still not yet clear.

The UK has expressed that the trade deal with the East Asian country will boost commerce by around $19 billion or £15 billion.

Read also: Brexit Emergency Talks as Divorce with EU Turns Ugly

“The agreement we have negotiated — in record time and in challenging circumstances — goes far beyond the existing EU deal, as it secures new wins for British businesses in our great manufacturing, food and drink, and tech industries," said Britain's International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss, who pointed to concessions on English sparkling wine and Wensleydale cheese.

The government said UK businesses will benefit from tariff-free trade on 99 percent of exports to Japan and that it will give British businesses a gateway to the Asia-Pacific region.

Overall, it said the deal with Japan, the world's third-largest economy, will deliver a £1.5 billion boost to the UK.

Britain's Conservative government has said that one of the benefits of Brexit is that it allows the country to negotiate trade deals with whoever it wishes — the EU negotiates trade deals on behalf of its members.

Skeptics say the deal with Japan is a little different from the one already in place via the UK's former membership of the EU.

They also say that nothing can mitigate the losses Britain would suffer in the event of a ‘no-deal’ outcome with the EU.

Such a scenario would see tariffs and other impediments imposed on trade between the UK and the EU.

Though both sides would suffer from the new barriers to trade, most economists think Britain would be hit disproportionately.

Read also: No Headway as France Lambastes UK’s “Unrealistic” Approach to Brexit

In 2019, the UK exported some £36.7 billion of goods to Germany, Europe's largest economy, or 10 percent of its total. Exports to Japan were just £7.2 billion, or 1.9 percent of the total.

The talks with the EU have not collapsed yet and discussions are set to resume on Monday in Brussels.

Though the UK left the bloc on January 31, it is in a transition period that effectively sees it benefit from tariff-free trade until the end of this year.

The discussions are about agreeing on the broad outlines of the trading relationship from the start of 2021.

Concerns over a post-Brexit trade deal have heightened in the past few days since the British government said that new legislation breaches parts of the withdrawal agreement, which allowed for the country’s smooth departure from the bloc.

The diplomatic shockwaves from the British announcement could derail any hopes Prime Minister Boris Johnson may have of negotiating a US trade deal.

The House of Representatives speaker, Nancy Pelosi, warned the British government that there will be “absolutely no chance” of a trade deal if the UK violates its international obligations as they apply to the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Congress has to ratify all US trade deals.

Even before the current standoff, the trade discussions with the EU had made little progress, with the two sides wide apart on business regulations, the extent to which the UK can support certain industries and over the EU fishing fleet’s access to British waters.

Read also: Government Raises Concern over Plight of Indonesian Fishing Crew

The renewed Brexit uncertainties come as the British economy gradually recovers from a deep recession caused by the shutdown of businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Office for National Statistics said the economy grew by a month-on-month rate of 6.6 percent in July as many sectors, including pubs and restaurants, started reopening.

Despite the increase, the economy remains 11.7 percent smaller than it was in February.

Read also: UK Public Debt Exceeds £2 Trillion as Pandemic Strains National Economy

The looming end of a salary-support scheme that will likely see unemployment rise and the heightened Brexit uncertainties are expected to weigh on growth in the months ahead.

Former Labour prime minister, Gordon Brown, urged the government to provide more support for those likely to be unemployed after the end of the Job Retention Scheme in October and to avoid a “huge act of self-harm” in its discussions with the EU.

“We've got a cliff-edge on the furlough scheme on October 31 and we've now got a cliff-edge on Brexit,” he told BBC radio. 

(Writer: Pan Pylas) 


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