The Telegraph | 13 March 2017
UK looks to supercharge EU trade deals post-Brexit
by Tim Wallace
Britain is looking for ways to take on the EU’s free trade deals with countries around the world after Brexit - then use its new independence to cut taxes and regulatory barriers to trade, boosting the power of the deals.
Ministers are touring the scores of countries which have trade agreements with the EU to see if they are willing to copy the deals over directly to a post-Brexit Britain.
But they are now looking at making this an interim position with the aim of making an even freer deal later, because the existing deals include chunks of protectionism added in by other EU governments in the negotiation stages previously.
The government is only scoping out the idea now, but trade analysts believe it could be a success.
While Britain might not have as much clout as the EU in negotiations, the UK is typically more willing to offer access to its markets, and can strike a deal much more quickly.
For example, the EU-Canada deal, known as CETA, took seven years to conclude as different countries, and even the Belgian region of Wallonia, had their own extra demands.
In that case Britain could decide to let in more Canadian dairy products, or reduce restrictions on Canadian chicken and turkey which the EU refused to consider at all, arrangements which could boost consumer choice in the UK and cut prices on the supermarket shelves.
These deals could be concluded relatively quickly because templates are already in place.
Regulations may be more important than tariffs, according to Geoffrey Yu at UBS.
The EU tends to ban genetically modified crops while the UK is more keen to grow its cutting edge scientific industries, so if the government wished, that could be an option.
However, he added that the UK’s reputation for good regulations can be a benefit in trade, so it would not be wise to slash all red tape.
“A lot of countries want to use the UK as a shop window for their goods - there is still a belief that, whether it is in or out of the EU, the UK has strong requirements, that goods sold there have to meet certain criteria,” said Mr Yu.
“There is a view in emerging markets that if it is good enough for the UK it is good enough for anywhere. So it is a question of how to enhance bilateral relations without jeopardising the UK’s status as a place with high standards.”
A more difficult point is arranging deals in services, the more dominant part of the UK economy, because trade deals usually only include goods, he added