UK post-Brexit trade deals have been 'minor' says Bradshaw
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The deal will reportedly look to tackle trade barriers and cut bureaucracy to allow businesses to work together more efficiently. It is the second trade and economic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a US state, after a similar deal was achieved with Indiana in May. However, its announcement has been shrouded in controversy after Tory insiders expressed frustration that Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt intended to announce the deal on the same day as today’s crunch vote to determine the two final candidates in the Conservative leadership race. The deal was not announced until after voting in the final ballot had closed.
Ms Mordaunt was knocked out of the contest today after securing only 105 votes, compared with Rishi Sunak’s 137 votes and Liz Truss’s 113.
The deal reflects a step forward towards a free-trade agreement with the US – although Joe Biden has previously threatened he will not consider such an arrangement until the problems created by Boris Johnson’s Northern Ireland protocol have been ironed out. Trade officials say the North Carolina MoU will “boost collaboration in areas such as clean tech and energy infrastructure by enabling both sides to share ideas, skills and knowledge, supporting public and private partnerships and driving capital investment.”
In a statement, Ms Mordaunt said the MoU will “grow our already £200billion trade relationship.”
She added: “Our twin-track approach to trade with the US is helping cut bureaucracy, reduce costs and increase exports and investment, and I look forward to seeing UK businesses reap the benefits.”
The Government states that the deal comes as “part of a wider US trade strategy”.
Agreements with Oklahoma and South Carolina are also in the works, with “even more in the pipeline”.
Meanwhile, in a “huge win for UK steelmakers”, 25 percent tariffs on British steel being exported to the US have been removed. Restrictions on Welsh lamb and Scottish beef being sold in the US have also been removed.
Ahead of the trade announcement, Tory insiders insisted it would be a “a complete systems failure” if it was allowed to go ahead.
They added: “Trying to take credit for the North Carolina deal in the middle of the race is totally inappropriate. Not least because she could not be a***d to go sign the deal with Indiana in May.”
Another source added: “Penny is trying to neutralise the shirking minister stuff and its cutting up rough in the department.”
But Ms Mordaunt’s spokesman hit back: “Even in these busy times, Penny has been focused on ensuring that we take advantage of the benefits of Brexit by securing a trade deal with North Carolina and other US States, which will boost, GDP, growth and jobs. The important work of Government must continue, and Penny will continue to lead the way in ensuring the UK secures state level deals with the US.”
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Joe Biden’s views on the Northern Ireland protocol may frustrate further trade deals with the US, however. The US president said in 2020: “Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”
By keeping Northern Ireland within the EU single market for goods, the protocol effectively created a border in the Irish Sea – something which Mr Johnson had previously assured voters he would not allow to happen.
It has drawn criticism and protests from unionist politicians in Northern Ireland who have called for it to be scrapped. The UK wants a fundamental renegotiation of the protocol but the EU has said that is not possible, while being prepared to consider additional flexibilities.
Mr Johnson’s exit from No10 may help to assuage US fears, however, with Barack Obama’s Europe adviser stating: “When the dust settles in London, Johnson’s resignation will do more good than harm to the US-UK relationship.”
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