Trade deal with booming bloc under threat

The PM has insisted that the Chequers deal will not constrain the UK’s future trade policy

Britain will be unable to forge a new trade deal with fast-growing Pacific countries unless it makes a clean break with the EU, a report warns today.

The Government’s White Paper on Brexit says the UK will ‘potentially seek accession’ to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) after leaving the EU.

The 11-member organisation, which aims to eliminate 98 per cent of all tariffs, is seen as a major potential growth market.

But a study by the Policy Exchange think-tank warns that Theresa May’s Chequers deal could make membership impossible.

The controversial deal commits the UK to following a ‘common rulebook’ with the EU on goods and farm products, limiting the room for manoeuvre of trade negotiators.

Today’s report warns that joining the partnership would require the UK to have more flexibility over its regulations.

Report author Geoff Raby, a former Australian ambassador to the World Trade Organisation, said: ‘By aligning UK policy to EU policy on agriculture and manufactured goods, the White Paper will constrain the opportunities that the UK has to pursue an independent trade policy.

‘Without being able to participate fully in the agricultural and manufactured goods dimension it is most unlikely that the UK would be able to join, but if it did it would not be able to get the full benefits.’

Boris Johnson

David Davis

The Chequers deal has caused uproar in the Tory Party and prompted the resignations of Boris Johnson (left) and David Davis

The Chequers deal has caused uproar in the Tory Party and prompted the resignations of Boris Johnson and David Davis.

The PM has insisted that it will not constrain the UK’s future trade policy. 

She told MPs this month: ‘We specifically looked at whether the plan that we were putting forward would enable us to accede to the comprehensive and progressive agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, and it will.’

But today’s report threatens to reopen the row over the potential impact on trade of the Chequers agreement. Donald Trump warned this month that the restrictions would ‘kill’ hopes of a US trade deal – although he rowed back following talks with Mrs May.

The CPTPP’s members include Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico and New Zealand, with South Korea, Indonesia and Taiwan among those set to join.

Policy Exchange chairman Alexander Downer, the former Australian high commissioner to the UK, said Britain would be ‘a welcome addition’ to the bloc, which would give it ‘unfettered access to many markets that represent a large part of the future of the world’s economy’.