United Kingdom and Japan finalise first trade deal, CPTPP membership ahead

Daniel Fowler
October 25, 2020

Britain and the European Union have made good progress in talks on a last-minute trade deal that would stave off a tumultuous finale to the five-year-old Brexit crisis, but fishing remains the biggest sticking point.

epa08615791 Britain's chief negotiator David Frost (L) and EU's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (R) arrive for a meeting, in Brussels, Belgium, 21 August 2020.

The new deal is very similar to the existing EU-Japan deal, but has an extra chapter on digital trade.

Barnier told reporters it was "important to be back at the table", and that the two sides shared a "huge common responsibility".

Other sticking points remain "level playing field" provisions to ensure Britain does not try to retreat from the EU's environmental or labour standards, state subsidies and how to arbitrate future differences.

"We have been repeatedly clear that any agreement needs to be in place before the end of the transition period", said Johnson's spokesman, who added that "it is obviously for the European Union to determine the length of time it needs for ratification".

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Japan and the United Kingdom signed a post-Brexit bilateral free trade agreement Friday, paving the way for its implementation January 1 next year to ensure continuity in trade and investment beyond the end of London's transition period out of the European Union.

Last week's EU summit had always been billed as the deadline to finalise an agreement but officials now give mid-November as the latest deadline for agreeing a deal and allowing enough time for it to be ratified by the 27 EU member states and the European Parliament.

Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu and British Trade Secretary Elizabeth Truss signed the agreement in Tokyo on Friday.

The UK and Japan today officially signed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

Labour has previously said the net benefit of the deal would amount to just 0.07% of GDP. The British minister, who called the signing a "landmark moment for Britain", presented her Japanese colleague with a wry gift of a jar of Stilton cheese from posh London department store Fortnum and Mason.

"It opens a clear pathway to membership of the Comprehensive Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will open new opportunities for British business and boost our economic security, and strengthens ties with a like-minded democracy, key ally and major investor in Britain".

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