Not just EU trade deals that must be rolled over post-Brexit

A report launched today by techUK highlights that urgent decisions are needed on over 750 different EU agreements post-Brexit. The report, Dealing with the deals, suggests that it is not just the loss of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that could undermine the UK’s thriving tech sector but also the loss of hundreds of smaller 'Science and Technology Agreements' with major trading nations that have helped innovative UK businesses secure access to talent and research.  

The paper calls for urgent clarity on whether the Government is able to ensure that all the trade agreements, which the UK as a member of the EU is currently party to, can be ‘rolled-over’ post-Brexit. While Government has said it intends for the deals to continue, there has not been any formal confirmation that countries, such as Canada and South Korea, agree. Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, recently said that “technical reasons” may prevent the roll-over of some deals. 

In the report, techUK says that the Government should prioritise the roll-over of those trade deals that provide the best deal for the UK’s service sector and include strong ecommerce chapters that enable UK tech-sector growth. It highlights the importance of deals, such as the EU-South Korea agreement, which has led to exports from the UK to South Korea increasing by 67 per cent in the five years since the deal was signed. 

techUK also states that the UK should update older EU deals to facilitate modern trade post-Brexit. For example, the UK should prioritise updating the EU’s agreement with Israel, a highly advanced digital economy, which currently only covers tariffs on good and does little to open up trade in services of digital products.  

Commenting on the launch of the report Giles Derrington, Head of Policy for Brexit, International and Economics at techUK, said: 

“A lot of focus has been put on how the UK will go about rolling over existing Free Trade Agreements that we benefit from by being in the EU. In reality, the problem goes far deeper. Smaller agreements, such as those on science and technology have brought major benefits to the UK’s innovative tech sector. These deals help develop our trade with countries, such as China, where even Government accepts we are unlikely to be seeing a fully-fledge free trade deal any time soon.” 

“With over 750 different EU deals that benefit out economy, the Government needs to be prepared to tell business how it will prioritise them and whether there is a path to rolling over these benefits for Britain.  We believe the UK should ruthlessly prioritise deals that support our modern, digitally enabled economy, such as South Korea and Canada, which go further and faster on trade in service.” 

“Rolling over these deals shouldn’t be the end of the story.  While securing the current benefits of EU deals must be our first task, we can do better in updating deals like the EU/Israel Free Trade Agreement, to work for both of our economies in the 21st Century.  Reducing tariffs is important, but the real prize for a services-orientated economy like the UK’s is deals which open up the market for services and support ecommerce.” 

The report is available for download below.

techUK Dealing with the deals report (pdf)

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