... but now comes the hard part

The Week - - City | Commentators - David Smith

Liam Fox, the In­ter­na­tional Trade Sec­re­tary, pro­voked much mirth last week by float­ing the prospect of Bri­tain join­ing the Tran­sPa­cific Part­ner­ship, says David Smith. When it comes to trade, ge­og­ra­phy is (al­most) ev­ery­thing. So why bother try­ing to join an agree­ment on the other side of the world when we are leav­ing a “per­fectly good trade ar­range­ment with the EU, an ex­port mar­ket five times the size of the 11 TPP sig­na­to­ries” put to­gether? There is, of course, no harm in woo­ing new friends around the world (and in fair­ness, Dr Fox ap­pears to have “gone about his task in a sen­si­ble way”). But let’s not take our eye off the Brexit ball. The UK’S cru­cial pri­or­i­ties are (a) to se­cure an exit deal that lets us roll over or “grand­fa­ther” ex­ist­ing trade agree­ments the EU has with 60 other coun­tries; and (b) to agree a com­pre­hen­sive trade deal with the EU that’s as close to sin­gle-mar­ket mem­ber­ship as pos­si­ble. All else is sec­ondary, and this is the year Theresa May will be forced to stop “wing­ing it” with “vague gen­er­al­i­ties” on Brexit in favour of con­crete specifics on how to achieve these ob­jec­tives. “Cards-on-the-ta­ble time is ap­proach­ing.”

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