U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said earlier this year that Britain could become the Superman of global trade, striking lucrative agreements on its own terms following the country’s exit from the EU in January.
The proposed deal with Japan marks the first major deal for the world’s fifth-largest economy post-Brexit.
Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, described the agreement as a “breakthrough moment” that would be “welcomed by businesses across the country.”
“Business will help support the Government in its efforts to secure more trade deals around the world and promote their benefits to communities. The Japan deal can be the first of many,” Fairbairn said.
However, critics of Johnson’s “global Britain” agenda suggest free trade agreements with countries around the world are unlikely to offset exports lost to the EU if it cannot reach an agreement with Brussels.
The U.K. and EU are currently at loggerheads over Britain’s so-called Internal Market Bill. The bill, proposed earlier this week, seeks to amend part of the country’s Brexit deal with the EU. If approved, it would allow ministers to change parts of the Northern Ireland protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement, negotiated last year.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, a government minister, has since conceded the Internal Market Bill would “break international law.”
In response, the U.K.’s opposition Labour party has condemned the proposal, while European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday she was “very concerned about the announcement from the British government.”
Stateside, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House and a vocal Democrat lawmaker, said Wednesday that if the U.K. violates its international agreements, “there will be absolutely no chance of a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement passing the Congress.”
The U.K. and the EU are currently trying to reach a trade agreement before the end of the transition period on December 31, with the U.K. set to go onto World Trade Organization rules if no agreement is reached.
UK reaches agreement with Japan to clinch its first major post-Brexit trade deal – CNBC