Thursday, July 2, 2020

United Kingdom must sign dozens of agreements to maintain relations outside the European Union

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With Brexit, the United Kingdom will have to renew one by one the free trade treaties that the EU has with the rest of the world.

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Liz Truss, fervent Brexit advocate and international trade minister for Boris Johnson, dreams of spearheading the UK's future trade policy. The future free trade agreements with the United States or Australia, the true Grail of the supporters of the "Global Britain" (Great Britain), should be his responsibility.

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Instead, it is forced to deal with a much more pressing case: to replace one by one the free trade agreements that the European Union has with the rest of the world. Not only will the United Kingdom cut its ties with its largest market (the EU accounts for 45% of its exports), but also with dozens of other countries that have preferential trade relations with the EU. In total, the Twenty-eight have formed about forty free trade agreements, including with Australia, New Zealand, Canada (the famous CETA), or, most recently, with Japan. Leaving the EU, the UK automatically loses these relationships.

According to the calculations of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad), these countries currently receive 17% of British exports. To simply allow the status quo, the government is therefore applying to replicate these treaties. "We managed to do it for about 70% of them", estimated Mme Truss at the Conservative Party Annual Convention in early October. False, says Unctad: according to her, only 41% of them have been replaced (in value of exports).

A bilateral agreement between London and Bern has been signed

And the list actually begins to lengthen. Iceland, Norway, Israel, South Korea, Chile, Zimbabwe, Madagascar … After a very slow start, the UK finally signed a series of replacement agreements.

One of the triggers came from Switzerland, which has very close economic relations with the United Kingdom. It is the sixth largest investor in the Swiss Confederation and, every day, one hundred and fifty air links connect the two countries.

Swiss diplomacy believes that the British have been slow to understand the value of starting discussions with them. It took their persuasion for the British government to finally grasp the issue. A bilateral agreement between London and Bern was finally signed at the end of 2018.

It was necessary to foresee all, so that the relations continue as today in case of "no deal": rights of the citizens, trade, sector of the insurance, road transport, air traffic … "For the British, it was important to sign these agreements, if only to prove that they are not immobile and that they can still do things"explained in July Karin Keller-Sutter, Swiss Federal Councilor.

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