Rishi Sunak’s agreement on Northern Ireland’s post Brexit trading system could have an unexpected side effect: It could help Britain seal a long-awaited transpacific deal.
Officials from the British government admit that the dispute over Northern Ireland’s customs arrangements with the EU and the UK has been brought up in trade negotiations with 11 Pacific countries.
Experts in trade confirmed that the issue was a concern for members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (a group that includes Canada and Japan)
They stated that Britain’s threats to unilaterally revise its Brexit agreement with the EU over Northern Ireland trade arrangements raised concerns in the Pacific about Britain’s role in a rules-based trading organisation.
There were concerns that Britain’s threat of ripping up an international treaty — which was dropped by Sunak the prime minister — could have been a precedent for other CPTPP applicant nations, particularly China.
Flint Global partner Sam Lowe said that “they have been raising it.” “The CPTPP is a rules-based organization and respects order. It is important that all members are good citizens.
Lowe stated that there was suspicion that Sunak, who was trying to reach a Brexit deal, was being pressured by the US to make it happen.
David Henig, a trade expert at The European Centre For International Political Economy said that “certain members were carefully watching the Northern Ireland situation because they feared China.”
He stated that Britain could be perceived as a lawbreaker if it passes legislation, the Northern Ireland protocol bill to unilaterally revise the UK-EU Brexit Treaty.
He stated that the CPTPP was a body with high standards and rules. “Plus China has applied for membership.” Sunak, part of the UK-EU agreement struck Monday, announced that he would be abandoning the Northern Ireland protocol bill.
This week, talks on Britain’s accession are underway in Vietnam, where Nigel Huddleston, trade minister, is present. There are high hopes that an agreement will be reached soon.
Insiders from the UK government confirmed that there was confusion over the precise status of Northern Ireland’s customs. They also said that the “Widow Framework” that Sunak and the EU agreed to this week offered “certainty”.
They also dismissed suggestions that CPTPP countries were worried about Britain’s reliability and as an international partner.
According to the Department for Business and Trade, “Joining CPTPP will allow UK businesses to enjoy tariff-free access to more than 99 per cent of goods exports to over 500mn customers and provide new opportunities for industries such as tech and services that support high-value jobs in the UK.
“We are looking forward to joining on terms that work in the UK’s best interests and national priorities, and we intend to conclude negotiations as soon as possible.”
The CPTPP is an area of free trade that includes 11 countries: Australia Brunei (Canada), Chile, Japan Malaysia, Peru, New Zealand and Singapore.
Britain would be the first to join the bloc from outside the region. Sunak could claim that he uses post-Brexit freedoms in order to conclude a deal with the bloc and strike new trade agreements.