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The Institute for Government (IfG) today released the report titled Trade and Regulation after Brexit which warned that the UK government would not be able to conclude a large number of trade agreements at speed and maintain its “much-prized regulatory autonomy after Brexit.” It warned that prospective trading partners were likely to tell the UK to change its standards if it wants a trade deal ahead of the Brexit transition period meaning Westminster risked throwing away regulatory autonomy after the transition period.
The report, written by trade policy associate James Kane, stressed that the importance of trade deals as a “prize of Brexit” made the UK “particularly vulnerable to such pressure”.
Mr Kane added that even though the UK was negotiating four new trade agreements and 18 rollovers of existing EU deals, the government still “lacked a firmly agreed position on many of the issues it will face.”
These included fishing waters and the “level playing field” which has seen London and Brussels clash for months and the latest talks reaching a stalemate.
However, the Institute warned that this lack of agreement has “weakened the government’s hand in talks with its partners, and also sets it up for trouble at home.”
An example is an ongoing dispute regarding the importation of chlorinated chicken into the UK which the think-tank warned highlighted “public concern about lowered standards.”
The proposal has caused tensions between Westminster and Holyrood with the SNP led administration at Edinburgh expressing concerns about the UK suggestion of a deal.
The IfG added: “At a time of mounting strain on the Union, this is a situation the government can ill afford.”
The Institute claims said that the government has made an “unforced error” in launching into complex trade negotiations before it had established a domestic regulatory approach.
It recommended that the government “clarify it’s red lines” on securing a deal claiming there was “visible disagreement between government departments on issues such as food standards can no longer be tolerated.”
The report recommended that stronger decision-making structures were needed internally claiming that “more authority below the top level of government” was needed.
It added that greater involvement from an “arms-length regulator” would “allow issues to be resolved more efficiently” and allow “parliament greater powers of scrutiny” stressing that negotiators would benefit from being “able to point to difficult stakeholders back home.”
The think-tank finally said that the UK government should adopt a “more cooperative approach with the devolved administrations” to avoid a “showdown between it and, in particular, Edinburgh.”
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Edinburgh and Westminster have been at loggerheads over Brexit with 62 percent of Scots voting to stay in the EU.
Nicola Sturgeon has expressed her support for the European Union with the ruling SNP saying that Scotland is being taken out of the bloc against the will of the Scottish people.
It comes as London and Tokyo are working towards replacing the agreement the UK currently has with Japan through the European Union.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said the two countries have “reached consensus on the major elements of a deal” and share an aim “to reach a formal agreement in principle by the end of August”.
Ms Truss said the UK and Japan have agreed “ambitious provisions” in areas including digital, data and financial services “that go significantly beyond the EU-Japan deal”.
But a UK government spokesperson, said: “This report is misleading.
“The UK Government makes decisions about our own domestic regulation – not our trading partners.
“We have published our negotiating objectives which are clear that we will never sign a trade deal that compromises our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.”
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