Antony Phillipson, the United Kingdom's trade commissioner for North America, discusses the U.K.'s trade policy, and hopes for new trade agreements, in the post-Brexit era.
Brexit brings a high degree of uncertainty to the United Kingdom, but it also opens the door to stronger bilateral trade ties with countries outside the European Union, especially the U.S. “It’s fundamentally important to the future of our economic agenda across the Atlantic and also in a post-Brexit world,” Phillipson says.
The U.K. and U.S. are currently in negotiations for a new bilateral trade pact. Formal talks began in early May (the official effective date for severing of ties with the EU was January 31), and two rounds have already taken place with “good, solid progress.”
Whether that can continue in an election year, as well as during a pandemic, remains open to question. But Phillipson believes the parties should keep talking. “I’ve always felt that we should try and make as much progress as we can, as fast as we can,” he says. “And the best way to not make progress is not to try.”
Areas of particular focus for the current talks include life sciences, financial services, automotive, chemicals and especially digital trade — the last an area that many prior trade agreements didn’t cover extensively. Phillipson sees the conclusion of new trade ties with the U.S. and other countries as key to the U.K.’s economic recovery plan.
Technology will be at the forefront of the negotiations. Phillipson says the U.K. has been “phenomenally successful in attracting tech-related investments, outstripping our European partners altogether. The challenge for us is how do we create conditions for the future, so that people keep having the confidence to [make] not just large-scale investments, but also little startups.”
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