Top billing for Brexit deals

OPPORTUNITIES: Dr Liam Fox; and (below right) Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
OPPORTUNITIES: Dr Liam Fox; and (below right) Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn


PRIME MINISTER Theresa May’s govern­ment said it would submit legislation to parliament on Tuesday (7) needed to let Britain pursue an independent trade pol­icy once it leaves the European Union.

The bill contains provisions to help Britain in its bid to convert existing EU free-trade agreements into British ones after it leaves the trading bloc, the government said.

The legislation will also include powers to ensure British companies can continue to access government contracts in other countries and create a new trade body to defend businesses against unfair trade practices, such as dumping.

“For the first time in over 40 years, the UK will be able to shape our own trade and in­vestment agenda – and we are determined that businesses and consumers can take advantage of this opportunity,” trade minis­ter Dr Liam Fox said in a statement.

Supporters of the vote to leave the EU have said the freedom to strike new trade deals independently of the bloc will be one of the main benefits.

They say it will be easier for Britain to strike deals more quickly with other nations, such as India and China, than the EU with its mem­ber countries and their different priorities.

But critics of Brexit say Britain does not have the individual capacity to negotiate dozens of new trade deals without the EU.

The bill is part of an array of legislation that will be discussed by parliament over the next year aimed at ensuring a smooth departure from the EU.

The government will also submit another bill soon that will allow it to vary the cus­toms duty on goods.

May ignored opposition demands on Monday (6) to share its economic assess­ment of Brexit this week, delaying the pub­lication of reports that the prime minister said might hurt her negotiating stance.

Weakened after losing the Conservative Party’s parliamentary majority, May has been under pressure to release government analysis of the impact of Britain leaving the EU, based on various scenarios including not reaching a deal with the bloc.

MPs passed a motion in parliament last week to force the government’s hand in publishing what Labour called an analysis of the economic impact of Brexit on 58 eco­nomic sectors.

Labour later demanded that the analysis should be published this week before par­liament breaks for recess on Wednesday (8), and Brexit minister David Davis travels to Brussels to begin the sixth round of faltering talks with EU negotiators.

But in a letter on Monday to the head of a parliamentary committee, Davis disputed the description of the assessments, saying it was instead a “wide mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis contained in a range of documents developed at different times since the referendum”.

“Given the above, it will take my depart­ment – and other departments, since this work draws on inputs from across govern­ment – time to collate and bring together this information in a way that is accessible and informative,” he said.

“We will, of course, provide the informa­tion to the (parliamentary) committee as soon as is possible.”

He signalled that this would not be this week, instead offering a meeting with the chairman of the committee, Labour’s Hilary Benn, next Monday (13) – when parliament returns from recess.

“I am concerned the government is not treating that motion or the house with the respect or seriousness it requires,” Matthew Pennycook, a junior Labour Brexit spokes­man, told parliament on Monday. (Reuters)