Ministers ”desperately” need a joined-up strategy for trading with other countries after Brexit, a cross-party group of MPs and business leaders has warned.
A new report found the government’s current trade policy, led by Trade Secretary Liz Truss, is “disconnected” from many of the Government’s other stated goals, including tackling climate change and industrial growth.
And the paper, drawn up by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Trade and Export Promotion – and backed by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) – warns the government’s decisions to cut overseas aid and scrap the industrial strategy is at odds with its vision for a “Global Britain.”
The group warned rolling over pre-Brexit trade deals were the “easy bit” – and called on ministers must create a framework for the hard work to come securing deals with major foreign economies and complicated regional agreements.
Tory former minister Lord Lansley, the APPG’s vice-chair said: “As we move from the roll-over agreements to new bilateral deals such as with Australia and New Zealand – or accede to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – there is an immediate need for clarity in the UK’s approach with international partners.”
The APPG said ministers should “safeguard the union” by ensuring trade strategy is “intrinsically linked” to boosting prosperity in all four nations.
And it called on ministers to make clear that the UK will pursue a “race to the top” on workers’ rights, human rights and environmental protections in future trade deals.
Chris Southworth, the ICC’s UK General Secretary, said: “The trade deals negotiated so far were the easy bit – simply rolling over what was already there.
He added: “Now comes the real challenge and we’re not ready. We need joined up thinking across departments, but instead we’re risking our export capability by scrapping the industrial strategy and cutting the aid budget to potential trade partners. Those decisions are completely at odds with the government’s vision for a ‘Global Britain’.
“This is an excellent opportunity for the government to respond with a strategy that works for all. There are some very practical recommendations here that can be easily adopted, but they need to act quickly or officials will enter trade talks not knowing what their goals should be.”