Europe

Cheaper fish ready for Brexit Britain after historic £21bn deal with Norway and Iceland

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A report by the House of Lords European Affairs Committee, published today, indicated that the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), signed in July, would benefit both British consumers and fisheries. With tariffs on the imports of shrimps and prawns gone, the committee estimates that British consumers could save between £1 million and £2.7 million a year.

The report concluded that the committee “welcome the Government’s successful conclusion of negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, and we congratulate all parties on the speed with which agreement was reached.

It continued: “The UK already has high levels of trade in goods with Norway and Iceland, reflecting many years of close economic integration.

“As a result, the aim of the Free Trade Agreement is as much to safeguard existing trade, by avoiding the imposition of new barriers such as tariffs or quotas, as it is about creating new opportunities.

“Its impact upon trade in goods will be incremental, but could be significant, particularly in the long term.”

The report noted that the FTA promises to benefit UK fisheries, “one of the few sectors subject to tariffs when the UK was still a member of the EU”.

While this would benefit businesses in Norway, the report said it would also “reduce costs” for the UK fish processing industry, which employs 18,000 people, and “ultimately for consumers”.

Almost three-quarters of those workers are based in Scotland, East Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire.

Norway agreed to cut certain tariffs for imports of UK fish feed from 10.5 percent to zero, which would also save £4.1 million annually.

The UK is Norway’s largest trading partner outside of the EU.

The committee also welcomed the FTA’s “provisions on women’s economic empowerment and on climate change, and the shared commitment of all Parties to the Agreement to deepen their cooperation on these issues”.

It described this element of the deal as “striking, given the lack of any comparable commitment in the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement”.

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However, the report noted a letter it received from the Scottish government criticising the UK Government for not consulting it during the FTA negotiation process.

Despite benefiting Scottish workers and consumers, Ivan McKee MSP, the Scottish Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, wrote that the lack of consultation “was not acceptable”.

“In February 2021, we were advised that [the Department for International Trade] would share more information on the negotiations, including offering the opportunity to comment on texts where they related to devolved competence,” he said.

“However, this still fell short of the level of engagement that we have called for, as it meant that we were not consulted on significant aspects of the negotiations, such as the UK goods market access offers and negotiating positions.”

The committee was critical of the materials provided by the Government, saying they “appear to have been produced in haste”, and had “concerns” about the level of scrutiny and engagement.

Northern Irish officials, meanwhile, confirmed that “no concerns have been raised on trade matters”.

Norway is the UK’s 12th largest trading partner, accounting for 2.5 percent of total trade. Iceland is Britain’s 67th largest trading partner.

The report noted that trade with Liechtenstein has “fluctuated in recent years, but given Liechtenstein’s size the level is consistently tiny”.

In 2019, the UK imported £16.7 billion worth of goods from the three other countries, and exported goods worth £4.4 billion.

However, the UK exported £4 billion worth of services, as opposed to £2 billion it imported.

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