UK must not misjudge ability to bag trade agreement with US post-Brexit, experts warn MPs

Hayley Kirton
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TTIP has provided the UK with "a potential template and framework" for future trade deals, Renison said (Source: Getty)

The UK is at risk of miscalculating how easily it can secure a trade deal with the US as it departs from the EU, experts cautioned MPs today.

"We ought not to underestimate the negotiating realities of the two different sizes of the economy or overestimate the ease with which we'll persuade public opinion to get support around a trade negotiation," Jeffries Briginshaw, chief executive of BritishAmerican Business, told the International Trade Committee.

Allie Renison, head of Europe and trade policy at the Institute of Directors, added that, in the arena of financial services, "people have overestimated the willingness of the US to talk about this in the context of a free trade agreement" because the two countries interests seemed roughly aligned.

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Renison also noted that in the past the US had appeared to try to use free trade agreements as a tool to advance its own regulatory interests on a global basis, recalling that some countries had effectively been forced to rewrite their laws to obtain an agreement with the US.

It is unclear what trade between the UK and the US might look like in the years following Brexit.

The EU and the US are at present working towards the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). However, this has now been through several rounds of negotiations and, also, the UK will not benefit from any agreement struck once it leaves the EU.

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Meanwhile, it is also unclear how willing Donald Trump will be to negotiate a quick trade deal. One of the US President's first moves on entering the White House was to pull the US' involvement from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

However, Renison noted TTIP had created "a potential template and framework" and the UK's involvement in the deal meant a large chunk of work towards any future UK-US deal had already been hammered out.

The experts were also quizzed on what might happen to regulation in light of Brexit. Briginshaw noted few businesses were interested in a Brexit red tape culling.

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"I don't think business would be interested in a bonfire of regulation," he said. "I think business is interested in aligned, effective, proportionate regulation, not liberalisation necessarily. Effective regulation that works."

However, Renison warned much of the UK's regulation in areas such as agriculture and data protection was currently guided by the EU and "there's a big question mark around what are we going to have in place of that" which created uncertain around how the UK might arrange trade agreements with other countries going forward.

But she added: "These are not reasons not to start dialogues with the US...there are things that you can do without having to jump into the free trade agreement straight on right away."

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