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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Britain-EU trade deals will fall off a ‘cliff edge’: MPs warn

The UK does not know how many agreements between the EU and third-party countries it will need to carry over

British manufacturing has suffered as demand has waned. Christopher Furlong/Getty 
British manufacturing has suffered as demand has waned. Christopher Furlong/Getty 

British trade with 70 nations is in danger of falling off a “cliff edge” if Theresa May’s government does not step up efforts to replicate the European Union’s commerce agreements, a panel of members of parliament have warned.

Mrs May’s ministers don’t even know precisely how many such agreements between the EU and third-party countries it will need to carry over when it leaves the bloc next year, according to the UK parliament’s International Trade Committee. There seem to be about 40 deals involving about 70 countries, the panel said in a report published in London on Wednesday.

“Unless an agreement is reached with our trading partners in the coming months, a significant economic price will have to be paid,” said committee chair Angus Brendan MacNeil, a Scottish National Party politician. “The government must not be naive enough to assume that a verbal agreement to maintain the status quo constitutes a watertight guarantee – contingency plans are required.”

The government hit back, saying it had already spoken to the countries involved, such as South Korea, Canada and Japan, and is taking steps to ensure there is no loss of trade opportunities.

“We have already held discussions with more than 70 countries - unlike the committee - and none have displayed any interest in disrupting trade flows, or in erecting barriers to trade that do not currently exist,” said international trade minister Greg Hands.