UK has moved to ‘offensive’ trade position says Liz Truss
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The Which? survey, of 3,263 UK adults interviewed online between June 23-24, suggested more than two-thirds believed the public receives too little information from ministers about trade deals. Ms Thornberry, the former Shadow Foreign Secretary, was quick to point the finger at the International Trade Secretary, saying: “This survey should be a wake-up call, Liz Truss.
“The British people do not want her undermining our food standards, selling out our farming communities, and negotiating trade deals on our behalf without telling us what they mean.”
A spokesman for the Department for International Trade said: “Free trade will grow our economy in every part of the UK and deliver jobs, better living standards and higher wages.
“As an independent trading nation, we are striking ambitious deals that will not only support our key industries, but also benefit consumers who will be able to enjoy more choice and better value thanks to the tariffs we are cutting.
“Our climate change and environment policies are some of the most ambitious in the world, and we will not sign trade deals that compromise our high environmental protections, animal welfare and food safety standards.”
Ms Truss has been tasked with establishing bilateral deals with worldwide allies after the UK regained the power to negotiate its own trading terms after Brexit.
A host of rollover deals with countries have been secured, mirroring the terms which had already been in place when a member of the European bloc, while fresh agreements with Japan and Australia have been brokered.
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However, the survey suggested many Britons were largely in the dark.
In total, 67 percent of those surveyed believed the public were not told enough, with just seven percent aware of the UK’s new agreement with Japan.
A quarter of consumers who took part in the poll said they felt the Government was “not at all open” about the impact new trade deals will have.
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The figures were highest in Northern Ireland, where Unionists are deeply unhappy about the Northern Ireland Protocol, which effectively keeps a part of the UK in the EU’s single market for goods to prevent a hard border.
Most Northern Irish respondents said Boris Johnson’s administration had not been forthcoming about what the trade deals meant for their region.
There were devolved fears elsewhere as well, with a third of consumers in Wales and 41 percent in Scotland “not at all confident” that trade deals struck by Westminster ministers would reflect their specific needs.
There was also a strong feeling that UK standards should be upheld in post-Brexit wrangling.
Out of those surveyed, almost nine in 10 felt all food imported should align with current UK domestic food standards.
Four in five consumers agreed that the UK Government’s trade policy should not endorse signing deals that remove existing environmental protections, while 63 percent believing it was very important not to reduce data and digital protections in concords.
Which? said a consumer chapter should cover key consumer priorities, such as maintaining food, data, environmental and online shopping protections, and that more than 80 percent of survey respondents supported the idea.
Sue Davies, head of consumer rights and food policy at Which?, said there should be a “consumer chapter” included in each future individual deal to inform people about the benefits and changes negotiated.
She said: “The success of future agreements will be judged on what they deliver for ordinary people in their everyday lives, not just the export opportunities they provide.
“Our research shows that consumers feel they have been left in the dark about what trade deals will mean for them.
“The Government must take this opportunity to communicate transparently and openly with the public about trade negotiations and push for a consumer chapter to be included in future deals which reflects the issues that are most important to consumers.”
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