2 March 2020 | UK NEWS
The Department of International Trade has today published its opening gambit for negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with the United States. The 184-page document also includes an analysis of the potential benefits to the UK economy if an ideal arrangement can be reached. The Government estimates that this would boost the UK economy by £3.4 billion per year, which would be a 0.16% increase in annual GDP.
While setting out the benefits for all regions of the country, the Government has certainly sought to allay concerns that a deal with the US could involve opening up parts of the NHS to outside competition, or that it might require the UK to lower its own standards in areas such as the environment or agriculture. The document’s strategic case outline contains the following paragraph:
“The NHS will not be on the table. The price the NHS pays for drugs will not be on the table. The services the NHS provides will not be on the table. The NHS is not, and never will be, for sale to the private sector, whether overseas or domestic. Any agreement will ensure high standards and protections for consumers and workers, and will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.”
The document is also keen to point out the benefits to Scotland, given that the SNP has been highly vocal in its opposition both to Brexit and to a potential FTA with the United States. In particular, it notes that “Scotland is expected to be one of the parts of the UK to benefit most. An FTA could bolster existing trade in Scottish salmon and Scotch Whisky, while lowering tariffs on cashmere and clothing, and high-quality meat.”
Wales, along with the Midlands and Northern England, are set to benefit the most from increased exports, while in the East and the South West, the greatest gains are said to be from reduced tariffs. The largest boon to London and the South East is expected to be in “professional business services” (which we assume to include the City) and “innovative UK tech firms”.
Finally, Northern Ireland is set to see the liberalisation or removal of tariffs and non-tariff barriers in several areas, making it easier to do business and thereby helping to drive growth across the region.
It comes amid news that that UK-EU future relationship talks have also commenced today in Brussels, where eleven separate teams are expected to work on eleven separate policy areas simultaneously. The next set of negotiations will reportedly be in London, reflecting a distinct change of approach since last year and the previous Withdrawal Agreement talks.
We will bring you further details on both the UK-US and UK-EU negotiations as they come in.