How will recent post-Brexit trade deals affect Wales?

(Title Image: Kecko via Flickr – Creative Commons CY-BY-2.0)

External Affairs Committee
International Agreements: Implications for Wales (pdf)
Published: 22nd March 2019

On March 18th, the Committee considered several trade agreements the UK Government has signed as preparation for life after Brexit.

I’m going to assume the Committee will issue periodic updates as further agreements are signed. This first report includes a legal assessment on whether the agreements affect powers within the Senedd’s competence and whether there are any other direct policy implications on Wales. My understanding is the deals come into effect immediately if there’s a “No Deal” on 12th April 2019, but if there is an agreement with the EU then they’ll come into effect at the end of the transition period in 2021.

The Committee’s broad conclusion was that the Welsh Government should get a look at the text of these draft agreements before they’re signed.

Export and import figures are for goods and services combined unless stated differently.

UK-Switzerland Trade Agreement

Signed: 11th February 2019
Ratification (under Constitutional Reform & Governance Act): 27th March 2019
UK exports (2017): £20.2billion
UK imports (2017): £11.9billion
Welsh exports (2017): £226million
Welsh imports (2017): £122million (goods only, figures for services n/a)

How does the deal work?

  • Switzerland has agreed not to impose higher duties on UK goods and services than those imposed on EU goods and services under the current EU-Swiss trade agreement.
  • EU rules of origin will continue to apply for UK goods and services for a maximum of three years after Brexit or until a full trade agreement is reached between the UK and EU before then.
  • Only 3 UK export/import categories have been carried over as mutually recognised – meaning they only have to comply with one set of regulations/standards (Switzerland has agreed 20 such categories with the EU). While this covers around 76% of UK exports and 84% of imports, it leaves out things like machinery, medical devices and electrical equipment.
  • Geographical protection of produce will continue in the UK and Switzerland.
  • Customs security arrangements have been disapplied (because there’s no agreement between the UK and EU), meaning more checks at the Swiss border (for UK produce) and UK producers losing “trusted trader” status.
  • The UK and Switzerland have an agreement on mutual recognition and rights regarding agricultural products “as far as is possible”, but there are a number of implications such as UK food, live animal and plant exports needing to meet Swiss regulations/standards or requiring additional checks.

What does this agreement mean for Wales?

  • Switzerland is Wales’ fifth largest destination for export of services (despite no figures being provided) and 18th largest for goods.
  • The Welsh Government had no sight of the draft agreement before it was signed by the UK Government; though the Welsh Government are given updates on agreements by telephone.
  • A number of key Welsh export categories to Switzerland have been left out of the mutual recognition agreement. Welsh exports left out of mutual recognition will likely need to meet Swiss inspection standards in order to be sold/used in that market.

UK-Israel Trade Partnership

Signed: 18th February 2019
Ratification: 11h April 2019
UK exports (2017): £2.3billion
UK imports (2017): £1.6billion
Welsh exports (2017): £52.4million
Welsh imports (2017): £42.5million (goods only)

How does the deal work?

  • Tariffs for UK-Israeli trade in goods will remain the same as EU-Israeli trade, with the exception of food and drink – which have been adjusted to account for low levels of trade.
  • The UK has retained an option to introduce an entry-price system (EPS) for certain food products during growing seasons (i.e. minimum prices could temporarily increase to protect the UK market from cheaper imports from Israel).
  • EU materials can be included in UK and Israeli (rules of origin) trade with each other.
  • There’s an agreement to reduce trade barriers for pharmaceutical products through mutual recognition of each other’s safety inspections.
  • Israeli citizens working in the UK will be allowed to access to family allowances for themselves or family members resident in the UK and vice versa – though the situation is more complicated when it comes to contributory benefits (pensions, disability benefits etc.) which will be largely dependent on a UK-EU deal.

What does this agreement mean for Wales?

  • The Welsh Government had no sight of the draft agreement before it was signed by the UK Government.
  • The changes to social security rules are expected to affect fewer than 1,000 people living in Wales.

UK-Palestinian Authority Interim Agreement

Signed: 18th February 2019
Ratification: TBC
UK exports (2017): £15million
UK imports (2017): £2million
Welsh exports (2017): N/A due to low volume
Welsh imports (2017): N/A due to low volume

How does the deal work?

  • Like Israel, the UK has retained an option to introduce an entry-price system (EPS) for certain food products during growing seasons.
  • EU materials can be included in UK and Palestinian (rules of origin) trade with each other.
  • The agreement has removed previous commitments between the UK and Palestine (via the EU) for “level playing field” provisions on state aid, state-owned companies and competition as the UK Government believed it would be inappropriate to include this in a bilateral deal.

What does this agreement mean for Wales?

  • The Welsh Government had no sight of the draft interim agreement before it was signed by the UK Government.
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