Rollover of EU trade deals will ‘go down to the wire’, Liam Fox admits | Politics News
Liam Fox has predicted many EU trade deals that the UK needs to re-agree with other countries will “go down to the wire”.
The international trade secretary defended his performance after reports that only six out of 40 of the agreements are expected to be rolled over in time for Brexit.
He was branded “incompetent” by his Labour shadow, Barry Gardiner, following the leak of a “state of play” grid from within the department.
The document, obtained by The Sun, showed six deals are on-track to stay in place by 29 March: Chile, Eastern and Southern Africa, the Faroe Islands, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Switzerland.
Some of the deals are with blocs of countries, as they choose to negotiate in a group to carry more heft.
Trade deals “off-track” for roll-over included Canada, Central America, CARIFORUM (African, Caribbean and Pacific countries), the East African Community, European Economic Area, Pacific, South Korea and the Southern African Customs Union and Mozambique.
But most trade deals fell into the “significantly off-track” red-coded column, including those with Ukraine, Mexico and Egypt – coming to 19 in total.
Four more were labelled “impossible” – Algeria, Turkey, Moldova and Japan – while a further two – Singapore and Vietnam – are not yet in force under EU law.
A government source told Sky News the document was out of date and “doesn’t show the whole trade picture”.
Mr Fox was hauled before parliament to answer an urgent question on Tuesday, insisting some trade agreement negotiations were at an “advanced stage”.
He admitted many more “will go down to the wire” because “that’s the way countries do business”, and promised to update UK firms on future progress soon.
Mr Gardiner hit out, repeating the international trade secretary’s infamous boast that all trade deals would be ready to roll over “one minute after midnight”.
He also accused Mr Fox of “grandstanding” by seeking trade deals with other countries instead of securing of getting on with “the fundamental work of securing what we already have”.
Tory MP Ken Clarke called for the UK to remain part of a customs union with the EU, so the bloc’s trade deals apply automatically to the UK after Brexit.
He warned that losing the agreements would have a “disastrous” impact on businesses and that countries like Japan and South Korea would demand “better terms” for the rollover of deals “at the expense of the UK”.