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Britain aims to “cut and paste” trade deals struck by the EU with other countries after Brexit, Theresa May revealed today.
The Prime Minister said the move would give businesses “certainty” and prevent Britain missing out on trade boosts negotiated by the EU for its members.
Speaking to reporters on her trip to Japan, she said she would press Shinzo Abe to extend the benefits of a planned EU-Tokyo deal, worth an estimated £3.6 billion, to the UK.
But Mrs May made clear that piggybacking on other EU deals would probably come before striking independent agreements. “We think it is an important deal for the EU and, yes, when we leave the European Union we are looking, obviously, at a number of trade deals that the EU has with other countries,” she said.
“We are looking at the possibility of those being able to being brought over, certainly initially, into trade deals with the UK.
“It would give business certainty which is what business wants at the point we leave.” Britain enjoys trade deals with 50 nations through membership of the EU. With Mrs May on the three-day trip are 15 business leaders, including Aston Martin president Andy Palmer, senior adviser at Barclays Capital Investment David Wright, CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn, and Karen Bett, chief executive officer of the Scotch Whisky Association.
The Prime Minister praised Japan as a “like-minded nation with a shared belief in free trade and a rules-based international system”.
But Tokyo has made clear its priority is to conclude a deal with the EU and it will not negotiate with the UK formally until after Brexit. A special adviser to Mr Abe, Tomohiko Taniguchi, said there was uneasiness about Brexit in Japan’s business community.
Labour MP Heidi Alexander MP, a backer of pro-EU group Open Europe, said: “The Government promised us a brave new world where countries were queuing up to sign trade deals with global Britain. Now they admit all they want to do is replicate the deal the EU is negotiating with Japan.”
Liberal Democrat Leader Vince Cable said: “Now the government is trying to cut and paste our existing arrangements. [International Trade Secretary] Liam Fox might as well be left in a room with a photocopier.”
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