What's being said about international trade at this week's Conservative Party Conference?

Mon 4 Oct 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

Tory party

While driver shortages continue to make the headlines, the Conservative Party Conference will be an opportunity for the UK government to set out its stall for what it hopes to achieve in the coming months and years.

Since Brexit, international trade has never been far from the headlines and policy in the area remains paramount to the government’s hopes of establishing the UK as a confident post-Brexit force.

We have a look at some of the main headlines around trade policy coming out of the Conservative Party at the start of conference week.

1: Lord Frost repeats Article 16 threat

Lord Frost told the EU that Britain “cannot wait forever” for its response to its proposals to rewrite the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol.

The Times reports senior government sources saying that unless Brussels was prepared to engage in a “serious negotiation” in the coming weeks, the government would suspend the deal by December.

Frost said that Article 16 would be triggered unless the EU stopped “tinkering around the edges”

“We need significant change. If we can agree something better, we can get back to where we wanted to be — an independent Britain with friendly relations with the EU based on free trade.

The Telegraph reports that the government has now drafted full legal texts to override the Protocol and will share them with the EU in the next few days. 

According to Politico, triggering Article 16 could restart the EU’s paused legal actions against Britain over previous Protocol infringements, and this could lead to “retaliatory measures, with tariffs and a possible trade war”.

2: Truss – US deal is not all that

Former international trade minister Liz Truss has said that a trade deal with the US is not the “be all and end all” for Britain, reports Reuters.

Asked at the Tory conference about the prospect of a deal, Truss played down its importance and said the UK should concentrate on deals with other parts of the world.

Prospects of a quick trade deal with the US faded when Joe Biden was elected president and PM Boris Johnson admitted on his recent trip to the White House that his counterpart had “a lot of fish to fry”.

City AM reports that Biden’s US trade representative Katherine Tai is doing a formal review of the state of negotiations before any further formal talks are held.

3: Affect of trade deals on farmers overlooked

The government is accused of dragging its feet over empowering a committee to scrutinise post-Brexit trade deals, reports the FT.

Neil Parish, Conservative chair of the House of Commons environment, food and rural affairs select committee has said the government was “deliberately running down the clock on establishing the [Trade and Agriculture Commission] to allow difficult concessions to be made [in trade deals] without the statutory oversight mechanisms”.

The Trade and Agriculture Commission was established to look at UK farmers’ concerns about how they would be affected by trade deals.

However, since producing a report in March, the Commission has not been put on a statutory footing and there are doubts about how seriously the government will take its recommendations.

4: Trevelyan says trade equals jobs

New trade minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan will make her first speech to conference today and will bang the drum for the role trade agreements can play in driving economic growth.

She tweeted: “Exports and free trade agreements are critical to levelling up as businesses grow and create more wealth”.

Trevelyan will say that inward investment has created 700,000 jobs over the past decade.