Boris to hand farmers a lifeline with latest post-Brexit trade deal
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The UK looks set to pick up where the European Union failed as International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan moves to strike a post-Brexit trade with the GCC. The GCC is a regional trading bloc made up of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait. It is thought that such a deal could hand a lifeline to struggling British farmers by boosting their export prospects in the Gulf.
British farmers have struggled amid worker shortages in abattoirs and seasonal workers as well as shortages in the CO2 needed for the meat industry.
Dozens of farmers protested outside the Conservative Party Conference this year, as they urged the Government to intervene.
Earlier today, Ms Trevelyan launched a 14-week consultation on what businesses would like to see in a trade deal before formal negotiations start next year.
The UK exported around £600m worth of food and drink to the Gulf region last year.
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The Trade Secretary said she wanted a deal which “breaks down trade barriers” for food, drinks, digital services, and renewable energies.
The economic union of Arab nations is valued at more than £2.6trillion.
A reporter for WION said that a deal “would be an advance on ties the UK had as an EU member”.
He noted that the GCC has not agreed on a free trade deal since 2015.
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Trade minister Ranil Jayawardena said: “From exports of Welsh lamb and Scotch beef to biscuits from Belfast and financial services from the City of London, I am determined to strike a deal that will further cement our relationships, attract investment, promote trade opportunities and provide significant benefits for British business, creating jobs in communities across the country.”
However, the deal would re-ignite concerns over human rights abuses in the region.
The six countries involved in the GCC have all been at the centre of significant human rights concerns, from the treatment of migrant workers to the murder of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
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Dr Sanam Vakil, the deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at the Chatham House think tank, said a deal would only go through with the GCC if there are no provisions on human rights.
He said: “The EU’s trade negotiations with the GCC failed because they tried to insert a human rights conditionality into an agreement, but I think this government is pragmatic enough that it will try to avoid repeating those mistakes.”
Shadow International Trade Secretary Emily Thornberry said while there are undoubtedly opportunities for British businesses in the Gulf, there were “lots of practical questions too”.
She added: “Above all of those is a question of morality, and whether we should be willing to agree preferential terms of trade with a group of autocracies who have some of the worst records in the world for the abuse of human rights, the mistreatment of workers, and the subjugation of women.”
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