Warning over ‘naive’ trade stance

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Trade deals with about 70 countries could be at risk unless the government obtains “legally watertight” guarantees they can continue after Brexit, MPs have warned.

A report by the Commons International Trade Committee calls on the government to show it has a “legally watertight and practically viable strategy” to prevent trade falling off a “cliff edge” after Brexit

The warning comes as the UK finds itself caught in a potential trade war between the EU and the United States after Donald Trump threatened to impose new tariffs on foreign steel and aluminium.

The chairman of the European Parliament’s trade committee said the EU should target American goods to “really hurt” the US if the US President goes ahead with his plan.

Labour said the US President had “made clear his appetite for a trade war”, and the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said it was “very worrying” for Scotland’s steel and aluminium industry. Major investment is planned for the Lochaber aluminium smelter in Mr Blackford’s West Highlands constituency.

“If we have to do a trade deal with the President of the United States, we’re now seeing very graphically the challenges that arise from that,” he said.

Meanwhile, a group MPs have said it is “naive” to assume that a roll-over of existing EU trade deals is “actually certain to occur” after Brexit.

They accuse ministers of a “disturbing lack of precision and clarity” after the Department of International Trade said it was asking countries to interpret terms such as ‘EU member state’ in existing deals as including the UK during the post-Brexit transition.

“It is difficult not to see this as an admission that its policy of negotiating new agreements by March 2019 might not be achieved and may be failing,” their report states.