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Support the ratification of trade agreements entered into during our EU membership

Last updated: 10:45pm 11 December 2019

We will […] support the ratification of trade agreements entered into during our EU membership.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.15

Our verdict

The UK participates in approximately 40 free trade agreements (FTAs) by virtue of its membership of the European Union (EU), and these would cease to apply to the UK upon withdrawal from the EU. This policy promises the government will aim to ratify any new agreements, designed to replicate the existing ones, which are entered into during its membership of the EU.

The government has withdrawn guidance which stated it would replicate all EU trade agreements “as far as possible”. Instead, it has published guidance stating that it is “working on new agreements to replace EU trade agreements after Brexit”.

Currently, the government has agreed 18 continuity agreements with non-EU countries and mutual recognition agreements with other key partners (such as the US and Australia). These deals will not come into effect until key Brexit-related bills, such as the Trade Bill, are passed. The Institute for Government’s bill tracker shows that of 14 bills the government needs to pass to in order to implement Brexit, six have been passed. Crucially for this manifesto pledge, the Trade Bill is one of the eight bills that have not been passed.

Fewer than half of the current free trade agreements the UK is party to via the EU have been ratified. Also, key bills required to implement those replica deals have not yet been passed into law. This policy made it to ‘in progress’, but has not been delivered at the end of this government’s term in office.

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