Brexit strategy may hit UK’s plans for free trade pact with India

The UK government’s latest blueprint for Brexit released on Thursday threatens to derail plans for closer trade ties with India as it would prevent Britain from making the kind...
The UK government’s latest blueprint for Brexit released on Thursday threatens to derail plans for closer trade ties with India as it would prevent Britain from making the kind of concessions on trade in goods that New Delhi seeks, according to details of a confidential report.

The so-called Brexit White Paper has already shaken up Prime Minister Theresa May’s leadership following resignations of her Brexit minister David Davis and foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who disagreed with what is seen as a much closer alignment with the European Union (EU) than desired, as it would reportedly make trade deals with other countries more difficult.

Now, according to details of a confidential joint UK-India Trade Review released to ‘Greenpeace Unearthed’, India might be among the countries unlikely to reap many post-Brexit benefits.

The trade review highlights a range of non-tariff barriers to trade identified by Indian businesses that the Indian government would want the UK to reconsider as part of any new post-Brexit trade deal.

These include limits on fungicides in Basmati rice, the enforcement of food hygiene standards for milk and dairy products, such as ‘paneer’, and the use of hormone-disrupting chemicals across a range of non-food products. These rules are imposed by the EU and under the new Brexit plan of a “common rule book” between the UK and EU on goods, any changes to food standards or chemical safety are unlikely.

The UK is due to leave the 28-member European Union on March 29, 2019, but the two sides have yet to agree how trade will work between the UK and the EU after that.

Dominic Raab, who became Brexit secretary on Monday after Davis quit in protest against the plan thrashed out at May’s country retreat of Chequers last week, stressed it struck the right balance between protecting existing arrangements with the EU and freeing up the UK to look further afield.

The UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) also sought to downplay the impact of the strategy on trade ties with countries like India.

A spokesperson said, “As we leave the EU, we will forge new and ambitious trade links around the world, while also maintaining our high standards on animal welfare and food safety.

The joint trade review’s findings underline the continued strength of the bilateral relationship between the UK and India, and we are committed to drive forward this mutually beneficial trade arrangement,” the spokesperson said.

The UK-India Joint Trade Review, which also focused on life sciences and information technology, formed the crux of a new UK-India trade partnership announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UK in April for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). But experts have warned that closer trade relations still face considerable hurdles. (Courtesy Times of India)

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