Shadow international trade minister Emily Thornberry has argued that the UK should focus on improving post-Brexit trade with the EU, instead of pursuing deals with the US and Indo-Pacific region.
Speaking at the Labour Party conference, Thornberry said the UK should be “fixing our trading relationship with Europe” rather than chasing small gains from far away countries.
She told Reuters she would focus on addressing the increased bureaucracy that firms trading with the EU have been hit with since the end of the transition period at the end of last year.
She also said she would seek to redress the deterioration in UK-EU relations following ill-tempered negotiations over last year’s post-Brexit trade deal and more recently the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Close to home
“The reality is that it’s always easier to trade with those who are geographically near, that’s how it works,” Thornberry said.
She described the free trade agreement signed with the EU on Christmas Eve 2020 as “thin” and “desperate” but said there was scope to create a better functioning arrangement with Britain’s largest export market.
Thornberry said her first step would be to strike a “pragmatic” and “realistic” agreement with the EU to resolve problems with the transportation of food between Britain and the EU, as well as between Britain and Northern Ireland.
In her speech at a New Statesman event, Thornberry said a Labour government “would not be forced into chasing the relatively small gains from, for example, a free trade deal with Brazil, where our exports last year were one fifth of what we sold to Belgium”.
‘New arms export regime’
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said a future Labour government would “introduce a new arms export regime that is truly transparent and committed to upholding international law”.
“We will end arms sales to Saudi Arabia,” she is quoted as saying in the Mirror.
She also committed Labour to ensure companies were legally obliged to eliminate forced labour from their supply chains and would face financial penalties if they fail to do so.
“Under a Labour Government, British shelves will never be stocked with the products of modern slavery. We will end cotton imports from Xinjiang,” she added.
Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said she would be the UK’s first green chancellor as she promised to invest an extra £28bn a year to fund a “green transition”.
She sought to position herself to businesses as a credible and safe pair of hands with a commitment to cutting Britain’s debt burden, reports the FT.
“With me in this role, Labour won’t be making promises we can’t keep or commitments we can’t pay for,” Reeves said.
Addressing the ongoing supply chain crisis the Conservative government is currently grappling with, the shadow chancellor told Sky News that Brexit was “obviously a contributory factor”.
“To deny that I think flies in the face of reality,” she told Kay Burley. “When you cut off a supply of labour, which we did when we left the EU, then you are of course contributing and adding to problems.”