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Brexit: There's 'no sense' UK seeking independent trade deals

By Gavin McLoughlin

Former Unilever boss Niall Fitzgerald has said it "makes no sense" for the UK to seek the freedom to do independent trade deals.

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Mr Fitzgerald told an audience in London that people should ask: "Which country does the UK Government want to independently trade with that it doesn't already - or soon will, through membership of the EU - that's worth any money on terms we could agree?"

He said the European Union was already working on a deal with Australia and New Zealand, and also cited comments from US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who said recently that Britain should align itself with US regulatory standards. That may allow, for example, controversial chlorine-washed chicken into the UK.

"If there was any other country that offers the UK a better economic partnership, we would already be negotiating it," Mr Fitzgerald said.

"It makes no sense for the UK to demand freedom to deal independently, dragging us all over a cliff edge if it can't."

The ex-Unilever boss was speaking at a Financial Times conference entitled 'Brexit and Beyond'. His remarks were carried by business magazine Business and Finance.

Mr Fitzgerald, patron of the British-Irish Chamber of Commerce, called for a new "customs partnership" between the UK and EU, as proposed by the British-Irish chamber.

"This will allow for continued trade of goods with a comprehensive deal also for services, and for co-development of new trade deals and rational co-operation in key common-interest areas," he said.

"The EU already has a tailored bilateral customs arrangement with Turkey and, given the globally significant scale of the UK, it makes sense to include the UK in any future trade deals agreed by the EU given the UK's attraction to third countries alongside the EU 27," Mr Fitzgerald added.

Belfast Telegraph