India’s century: Sunak’s plan for a new Indo-Pacific alliance

When Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, India’s press was thrilled. ‘From Age of Empire to Rishi Raj’ declared the Times of India: another headline hailed the ‘Browning Street’ phenomenon. ‘Indian son rises over Empire’, proclaimed the New Delhi TV channel, a play on the colonial-era adage that the sun never sets on Britain’s empire. When Sunak visits New Delhi for the G20 next week, it will be quite a moment. Two Hindu heads of government will meet – the old power and the new. Sunak’s agenda is to bind Britain closer to a growing Asian economic powerhouse – which last week completed its first successful moon landing – while containing

Why Britain will lose from America’s trade wars

Davos this year marked the start of a great economic divorce of the United States and Europe. Katherine Tai, the US trade chief, said that globalised capitalism is not working anymore. It leaves workers behind and gives fuel to populists, she said. Really, the Biden administration wants reassert US dominance in the world, and is using the country’s economic weight to do it. The Europeans, meanwhile, seem happy to become more protectionist too, with France’s Europe minister Laurence Boone calling the new US stance a ‘wake-up call’ and saying that Europe should respond in kind. Europe’s leaders are reacting to the reality that, with high energy prices, their manufacturing cannot remain competitive

What Truss’s US trade deal U-turn is really about

Farewell to the UK/US trade deal. That’s the news from Liz Truss’s trip to the UN assembly in New York. The Prime Minister has told hacks on the flight over that the UK will not strike an agreement with America for many years. The former international trade secretary suggested that talks were unlikely to even start in the medium term: ‘There isn’t currently any negotiation taking place with the US and I don’t have an expectation that those are going to start in the short to medium term.’ The comments come ahead of her first proper meeting with Joe Biden since becoming Prime Minister. The former International Trade Secretary suggested

Changing the Northern Ireland Protocol won’t break the law

The UK is about to publish a bill that will override parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol. We are doing this unilaterally – the EU doesn’t want us to do it, but we’re going to do it anyway. Surely that means we’re about to breach international law? It’s worth quickly going over why this is happening. The EU wanted to protect its common market, and no one wanted a border down the island of Ireland, so a trade border was placed in the Irish Sea. That has created trade friction between two constituent parts of the United Kingdom. Unionists are unhappy with that arrangement. And unhappy Unionists have led to

No, Biden didn’t just snub Brexit Britain

For European Union enthusiasts, the ‘trade deal with America’ has joined ‘£350 million pledge on a bus’ as one of the great Brexit lies. A certain amount of gloating has therefore greeted the news that Joe Biden last night ‘downplayed’ the possibility of a US-U.K. Free Trade Agreement. It’s a ‘snub’, Brexiteer hopes are dashed, and so on. But did Biden actually ‘downplay’ anything? Not really, since nobody has been seriously playing up the possibility of late. Many journalists are today talking as if the Prime Minister had been hoping to announce with Biden the trade deal Donald Trump promised Britain in 2017. But Boris has been the one minimising

Brexit is good news for Africa

Few who voted for Brexit were actually racists, much as those opposed to the project would like to have you believe. There were probably as many reasons as the 17.4 million people who voted to leave the EU. For example, I am an African-born British citizen who enthusiastically campaigned for Brexit, hoping that an independent United Kingdom would offer mother Africa a better future. Brexit should create an opportunity for Africa, not only to escape the crippling EU Common Agricultual Policy but also to trade itself out of the dehumanising poverty through equitable trade deals. Even the EU’s supporters accept that the Common Agricultural Policy is a disaster for its

The problem with linking trade deals to human rights

Trade deals are in the air post-Brexit, but not everybody is happy. In a speech this week Frances O’Grady, the TUC General Secretary, accused the government of not taking international morality into proper account when closing such deals. She demanded the government take steps to suspend trade deals with a number of countries that, according to recent research by the TUC, had a murky record on labour standards and human rights. By failing to do this and continuing to deal with these regimes, she said, the UK would be turning its back on workers everywhere and in addition demonstrating that it could not be trusted to observe decent standards at

Revealed: How the UK-Australia deal was struck

The basis of the UK’s first bespoke trade deal since leaving the EU was finalised with Australia over two dinners. One took place in the garden of the residence of the Australian High Commissioner to the UK, where guests were fed Australian lamb. The other in Downing Street where Welsh lamb was on the menu. They were menu choices that pointed both to what the deal would achieve – zero tariffs, including on agricultural goods – and the main point of contention in a negotiation that has spanned nearly a year since talks began last June. In that time, there has been a Cabinet row over protectionism on Australian meat imports and

The real value of the Australia trade deal

If Britain had been unable to agree a trade deal with Australia, then Brexit really would have been pointless. The country is one of our greatest allies and we have no rational reason to fear its beef, its sugar or its people. A free trade deal, aligned with visa-free travel, ought to have been the easiest deal to do. A deal is now done, phasing in these freedoms over 15 years. But even this sluggish pace is too fast for the protectionists who are popping up. Some have predicted that our beef farmers will be ruined and the countryside laid to waste as our markets are opened to competition. Many

Has Covid turned us into a nation of cyclists?

On this day Would 19 July make a suitable ‘freedom day’ (assuming Covid restrictions are lifted even then)? There is an ominous warning from history. In 1919, 19 July was designated ‘Peace Day’, on which victory in the Great War would be celebrated with parades and banquets, three weeks after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. In London 20,000 service men and women marched on a seven-mile route past the temporary Cenotaph. Many demobbed servicemen felt aggrieved, however, that so much money was being spent on celebrations when many of them were out of work and still without the housing they had been promised. Trouble erupted in several towns,

The UK-Australia free trade agreement is a triumph

How significant is the UK-Australia trade deal announced this week during Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s visit to Britain? Well, Australia already has 17 genuine free trade agreements, including with the United States, Japan and China. But the free trade agreement with the UK is undoubtedly one of the highest quality agreements Australia has ever reached. In terms of the liberalisation of markets, it is only exceeded by the free trade agreement Australia has with New Zealand. This demonstrates something very important: that the UK, having left the European Union, is going to be a genuine champion of global trade liberalisation. That will not only be good for the British economy

The political advantages of the UK-Australia trade deal

The UK government has agreed its first bespoke trade deal since leaving the EU. After Boris Johnson met with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday night, a deal has been agreed between the two sides. The deal on the table offers tariff free trade for all British goods, enhanced access for British tech companies and ought to make it easer for Britons under the age of 35 to travel and work in Australia. As for the Cabinet row over whether an influx of Australian meat could threaten the livelihoods of UK farmers, a 15-year cap on tariff-free imports has been agreed – though the specifics are yet to be

How to fix the protocol

The blame game between London and Brussels over the Northern Ireland protocol obscures the fact that there are solutions waiting to be found. There are, as I say in the Times today, ways to reform the protocol and better protect the Good Friday Agreement while not threatening the integrity of the single market. Three changes would render the protocol far more acceptable Three changes would render the protocol far more acceptable and would better position it to withstand the undoubted pressures it will come under when the EU and UK start to diverge their regulations.  The first of these is a trusted trader scheme for food. This would allow registered

It’s time to revisit the Northern Ireland protocol

Britain has already seen two ‘Brexit days’ — when it formally left the EU on 31 January 2020 and the end of the transition period 11 months later. But given that it has taken less than six months for the Northern Ireland protocol to unravel, it’s horribly clear that our future relationship with the EU is anything but settled. The transport of sausages and other chilled meats from Britain to Northern Irish supermarkets may seem a trivial matter. But the attempt by the EU to enforce a ban on this trade demonstrates what so many people found problematic about the idea of an internal UK border down the Irish Sea.

Brexit Britain can capitalise on the breakdown in EU-Swiss talks

It is a leading player in finance, and it’s companies are giants in life sciences and consumer goods. There were already lots of similarities between the Swiss and British economies, except that they are quite a bit richer and more successful than we are. Now we have something else in common: we have both been frozen out of the European Union’s Single Market. But hold on. Isn’t there an opportunity there as well? In truth, this would be the perfect moment to offer the Swiss a deal that would work for both sides – a common market. The Swiss have always had a fractious relationship with the EU. It has

The Australian trade deal is about more than just trade

What happens with an Australia trade deal won’t just reveal how serious this country is about free trade but also how committed it is to helping democratic countries stand up to China. China is Australia’s largest trading partner but since Australia called for an independent inquiry into the origins of coronavirus, Australian-Chinese relations have severely deteriorated. Beijing is now trying to use this economic relationship to get Canberra to fall into line.  China has imposed huge tariffs on Australian barley and on wine for the next five years, while technical reasons have been found to bar most Australian timber and beef from the country. If in these circumstances the UK failed

The emptiness of the UK-India trade deal

Britain and India have been trading for over 400 years. For 190 of those, between 1757 and 1947, the subcontinent was close to being a captive market of the United Kingdom. Today commercial turnover between the two nations is a mere £23 billion — a tenth of the goods and services traffic between Britain and the European Union. For many Leave voters, Boris Johnson included, expanding trade ties beyond the EU’s borders was a major motivation for Brexit. India was seen as both an exciting emerging market but also a nation that is culturally entwined with this one. However, five years after Britain voted to depart the lucrative single market,

How worried should we be about the Indian variant?

The Prime Minister has cancelled his trip to India, due to happen next week, though travellers coming from the country are yet to be told to quarantine for two weeks. But the fact India is yet to be put on the red list has caused some surprise given the surge in cases of Covid-19 — up from 12,000 a day in early February to 270,000 on Sunday, many of which will be the new Indian variant. The whole reason for the red list was to guard against new variants gaining a foothold here. Is India heading for the red list shortly — possibly even later today — or on what grounds might it escape?

Britain is closing its trade gap with the EU

So it was just a blip after all. Remember those huge headlines last month revealing that exports to the EU had plunged by 41 per cent in January, leading frustrated remainers to bleat: we told you so? ‘Brexit – the unfolding disaster’ tweeted Lord Adonis for one, along with a graph showing the sharp fall in January. Now we have the figures for February, which has been reported rather less loudly, but which show just as strong a rebound. Exports in goods to the EU in February, records Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, were 56 per cent up on those in January. They are still down 11.6 per cent on February 2020, but

What happened to the great Brexit trade chaos?

The ports would reek from the smell of rotting fish. Factories would close en masse as orders got snarled up in red tape. There would be chaos at the borders as deliveries were blocked, and services would hit a wall of ‘non-tariff barriers’ that would make it impossible for British firms to sell them across Europe.  We have heard a lot over the last few weeks about how much disruption our departure from the European Union was causing for exporters, and there were lots of stories about firms that might go out of business or would have to move production to France or Poland. Membership of the single market, despite