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Sajjad Karim MEP: Brexiteers wrong to say negotiating trade deals outside the EU would be easier

Guest Blogger, 14 April 2016

One argument Eurosceptics very often use is that leaving the European Union would allow the UK to negotiate trade deals on our own British terms. They claim being free from the “shackles” of Europe would make it easier to trade with the rest of the world, opening us up to more emerging economies.

Whilst this may be true in their eyes, there is by no means any guarantee as to the success or certainty of these newly negotiated trade deals.

Just last year America ruled out a separate trade deal with the UK. President Obama’s most senior trade official, Michael Froman, warned that the US is “not in the market” for free trade agreements with individual countries, going as far to say that British firms could face damaging Chinese-style duties outside of the EU.

Even if the US, in very unlikely circumstances, allowed the UK to remain part of a probable TTIP agreement – this still leaves the other 53 countries across the globe which the EU has trade deals with.

In any case, negotiating new deals with countries across the world could take years and are by no means assured.

Another unfounded claim Brexiteers like to make is that Britain would continue to be a part of the trade agreements negotiated by the EU.

Former Chancellor and chairman of Vote Leave, Nigel Lawson, has alleged that “our trade arrangements with the rest of the world remain totally unchanged” if we quit the EU, telling the BBC there was “no doubt” the UK could keep our agreements negotiated by the EU after leaving.

He claims these deals would continue “because the European Union did not negotiate as the European Union. It’s not allowed to. It’s not a member of the WTO (World Trade Organisation).”

Unfortunately for Mr Lawson, the EU is a member of the WTO.

According to Thomas Sebastian – a barrister and specialist in EU & WTO law – Britain would “not have any right” to piggyback on to these deals. It would be “a matter for negotiation between the third country, the EU and the UK”.

If an expert in EU & WTO law is anything to go by, it would seem our trade arrangements with the rest of the world would not “remain totally unchanged”, as Mr Lawson has claimed.

Hypotheticals aside, you have to keep in mind that the EU is Britain’s largest trading partner – our geographical location makes this all the more logical. So the question if we do leave is not if we would trade with the EU, more on what terms will we do so.

The Single Market would be the favoured option, but do we really want to be subject to all its rules and regulations without having any direct influence over it. Surely it makes sense to fight from within to ensure we reach the best possible outcome for ourselves.

I hope that when it comes to polling day the British people make the sensible and logical decision. We must stay at the table where our interests are best served, rather than taking a leap into the dark unknown.

Sajjad Karim is a MEP for the North West region of England, first being elected in 2004.  He is a member of the Conservative Party. You can visit his website here.   

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