Japan trade deal: UK signs first post-Brexit agreement

‘This is a historic moment for the UK and Japan as our first major post-Brexit trade deal,’ says Liz Truss

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Friday 11 September 2020 12:39 BST
UK and Japan agree free trade agreement

Britain has secured its first major post-Brexit free trade deal with Japan worth an estimated £15bn, the international trade secretary Liz Truss has announced.

“This is a historic moment for the UK and Japan as our first major post-Brexit trade deal,” the cabinet minister said.

“The agreement we have negotiated – in record time and in challenging circumstances – goes far beyond the existing EU deal, as it secures new wins for British businesses in our great manufacturing, food and drink, and tech industries.”

The UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement was agreed in principle by Ms Truss and Japan’s foreign minister, Motegi Toshimitsu, in a video call on Friday.

The government said businesses will benefit from tariff-free trade on 99 per cent of exports to Japan, delivering a £1.5bn boost to the UK, claiming manufacturers, food and drink producers and the tech sector will see the greatest benefits.

The Department for International Trade added negotiators secured “more generous access” for malt producers, with Japan guaranteeing “market access for UK malt exports under an existing quota than the EU quota”.

The deal with Tokyo comes after the negotiating teams hit an unlikely flashpoint in August over preferential treatment for blue cheese makers in the UK, with Ms Truss keen to agree better terms than those agreed with Japan’s recent EU deal. It was not immediately clear whether the cabinet minister had achieved this objective.

Welcoming the news, Carolyn Fairbairn, the director general of the Confederation of British Industry, said: “The signing of the UK-Japan trade deal is a breakthrough moment. It will be welcomed by businesses across the country.”

She added: “The government and business now need to work together to make the most from the deal. It’s huge opportunity to secure new Japanese investment across a wider range of sectors and UK regions.”

But the agreement comes as the government faces the prospect of talks collapsing with the EU - the country’s biggest trading partner – following an incendiary move to override key aspects of the Brexit withdrawal agreement in legislation being introduced in the Commons next week.

After an emergency meeting on Wednesday at Whitehall between EU officials and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said Boris Johnson had “seriously damaged trust” as he set a 20-day deadline for No 10 to drop the Internal Markets Bill or face legal action.

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