Response to The Telegraph on Britain 'unable to strike ambitious trade deals'

Our response to claims made by The Telegraph in its article: 'Britain unable to strike 'ambitious' trade deals under Theresa May's Brexit plans' - published 28 November 2018.


Britain will be unable to strike "ambitious" free trade deals under Theresa May's Brexit plans, the Government has admitted.

A cross-Government economic analysis of the impact of Brexit said that under both the "no deal" Brexit and a Canada-style free trade deal the UK will be able to sign deep free trade agreements with nations like the US and China.

However, "ambitious" deals, which assume bigger reductions in tariff barriers, will not be possible under the Government's plans, the analysis said.


That is not what the analysis is suggesting. We've been very clear that the UK will have an independent trade policy covering goods and services, that we will be able to set our own tariffs, and we will be able to sign, negotiate and ratify new free trade agreements after we leave the EU on 29 March.

The economic analysis published today reflects this. An ambitious set of future free trade deals is included in the modelling for all three scenarios.

Our preparations for new FTAs are well underway. We have carried out public consultations on FTAs with the US, Australia and New Zealand, as well as potentially joining CPTPP. Many of these countries have said publicly that they want to do a deal with us when we leave the EU.

The UK has already set out, through its White Paper, an approach which would see the UK able to:

  • set its own tariffs for trade with the rest of the world
  • have regulatory flexibility, allowing for greater regulatory cooperation with third country trade partners, in areas where the UK chooses not to align with EU rules
  • negotiate provisions at the cutting edge of global best practice, in areas such as services (accounting for 80% of UK GDP), reflecting the great potential to deepen services trade worldwide, which is growing at a faster rate than trade in goods
  • negotiate new arrangements on financial services and seek mutually beneficial opportunities in procurement markets
  • negotiate provisions, tailored to the needs of UK services professionals, including arrangements on professional qualifications
  • seek ambitious digital trade packages, in areas such as data flows, source code, SMEs, and cyber security



They are therefore not modelled under the official analysis. While the analysis does assume a standard trade deal with countries such as China or America will be possible under Mrs May's scenario, it states that the more "ambitious" kind will be "too difficult" to secure.

It comes as Donald Trump criticised Mrs May's plan as being too closely aligned to EU rules and suggested that the UK may be unable to strike a free trade deal.

The analysis looks at four main scenarios - Mrs May's plan, no deal, a free trade agreement with the EU, a Norway-style scenario. The Government has been accused of rehashing "Project Fear" style warnings if Mrs May's deal does not get through Parliament.


This is incorrect. An ambitious set of future free trade deals is included in the modelling for all three scenarios.

On tariffs specifically, “the analysis assumes an ambitious scenario in which tariffs between the UK and potential third country trade agreement partners are eliminated by FTAs following EU exit, under all modelled scenarios. For new trade partners, all tariffs are set to zero.”

These agreements are assumed to cover a broad range of potential trading partners, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and other members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. It assumes that, compared to today's arrangements, under all modelled scenarios, trade costs from import tariffs are zero for all FTA partners. The analysis also assumes the same level of reduction in non-tariff barriers across all scenarios.

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