As an EU member, the UK currently participates in around 40 excellent free trade agreements with over 70 countries, with more on the way, on advantageous terms that Britain is unlikely ever to replicate after Brexit.
Because the EU is the world’s richest, biggest single trading bloc, and the world’s biggest exporter and importer of manufactured goods and services, it can negotiate the best trade agreements with other countries.
In negotiations, the bigger party usually gets the best deals.
The EU has the power, the reach, the expertise and the muscle to achieve first-rate trade agreements on behalf of its members.
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Could Britain, being much smaller than the EU, achieve trade agreements with other countries as good as, let alone better than, the agreements we already have through our EU membership?
After Brexit, Britain will have to tear up all our trade agreements with other countries and start over from scratch. It will take years, maybe decades, to re-negotiate those trade agreements. And what for?
After all, it took the EU over seven years to negotiate the EU-Canada deal (CETA).
In October 2017, Liam Fox, the former international trade secretary, said,
“I hear people saying, ‘Oh, we won’t have any [free trade agreements] before we leave’. Well, believe me we’ll have up to 40 ready for one second after midnight in March 2019.”
Of course, he had to eat his words.
Dr Fox also famously claimed that concluding a trade deal with the European Union after Brexit would be the “easiest in human history”.
He also had to eat those words too.
With only around 80 days until Brexit happens, no trade deal with the EU has been ‘concluded’ let alone trade deals with any major economies outside the EU.
It is now highly probable that Britain is going to crash out of the EU on 31 October without any deal in place, causing catastrophe.
And yet, we already have the best deal in place: full membership of the EU.
We don’t have to leave the EU and inflict catastrophe on ourselves in the stupidest act of voluntary self-harm by any country in modern times.
The courts have confirmed that Britain can revoke the Article 50 notice right now, and stay in the EU on the same excellent membership terms we’ve enjoyed for decades.
Can anyone give any valid reason for leaving? No, they can’t. All the reasons given to leave – every single one of them – have transpired to be bogus nonsense.
Regarding doing our own trade deals, what would be the advantage?
Can any Brexiter refer to any clause in any of our existing EU trade agreements that they don’t like or that hurts Britain’s interests?
After all, as a full member of the EU, the UK has fully and democratically participated in all the EU’s negotiated trade agreements.
EU trade agreements have to be democratically approved by the European Parliament, in which we are represented by our MEPs.
Our Parliament in Westminster has also democratically agreed to all EU trade deals.
Since the EU is run by its members for the benefit of its members, why would any EU member agree to any trade agreements that were not in our best interests?
The new unelected Tory government is now desperately trying to get a trade agreement with Trump’s USA, that could involve the import from America of chlorinated chicken, together with hormone-fed beef and genetically modified food that the EU has banned to protect EU citizens.
Not to mention the NHS, that President Trump said on his visit to the UK in June would be ‘on the table’ in any trade negotiations.
Does Boris Johnson’s cavalier government have the same concerns as the EU to protect its citizens? Or are they only driven by the lure of easy profits for their pals in the City?
On current form, there is every indication that Brexit-driven trade agreements with other countries will not protect British citizens as much as EU-negotiated trade agreements.
That’s especially the case as the UK government is desperate to negotiate trade agreements in a hurry after Brexit.
This week, the former US treasury secretary Larry Summers said he does not believe that a “desperate” UK would manage to secure a post-Brexit trade deal with the USA.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday:
“Britain has no leverage, Britain is desperate … it needs an agreement very soon. When you have a desperate partner, that’s when you strike the hardest bargain.”
Even if the two countries could come to an agreement, said Mr Summers, the UK is in a weak negotiating position.
“Britain has much less to give than Europe as a whole did, therefore less reason for the United States to make concessions. You make more concessions dealing with a wealthy man than you do dealing with a poor man.”
The EU has negotiated over 40 trade agreements over many decades, with care, attention to detail, and with the best interests of the EU and its people at heart.
Can the same be said of the intentions of our Brexit government?
The EU and Japan recently signed an unprecedented free trade agreement which will create one of the world’s largest trading blocs.
The EU-Japan “Economic Partnership Agreement” (EPA) is the largest trade deal ever negotiated by the EU. It will create a trade zone covering 600 million people and nearly a third of global GDP.
The EU-Japan economic agreement will ultimately remove 97% of the tariffs that Japan applies to European goods and 99% of those applied by the EU.
It is estimated that EU companies will save €1 billion a year in duties which they currently pay when exporting to Japan.
It is of course good news for the EU and Japan, but not for Britain. Brexit means we won’t benefit from the EU-Japan trade agreement, or any other existing EU trade deals or new ones in the pipeline.
And the UK is never likely to get a free trade agreement with Japan anywhere near as good as the one just achieved by the EU.
For Japan, the real importance of the UK lies in its access to the EU market. Without free, frictionless and open trade between the UK and the rest of the EU, Japanese companies will not be impressed by any UK-Japan trade deal.
So, what are the benefits of Britain doing its own trade deals with other countries after Brext?
I can’t find one. Not even one.
The bottom line is that we get the best trade deals in the EU. We’re better off together… as part of the Union.
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