UK urged to refocus trade

The UK should focus on nailing down post-Brexit trade deals with the US and China and not spend too much time negotiating with India, Canada or Australia, according to a study by Global Counsel.

Using a string of metrics, the London-based consultancy found China, the US, Japan, and Russia offer the greatest opportunities for commercial arrangements once Britain has left the EU and so is able to liaise one-on-one with other countries.

India was not among the top 10 nations and Canada ranked 23rd, behind Taiwan, Global Counsel said. Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia are also not worth spending too much time on.

“UK trade policy will require ruthless prioritisation,” said Gregor Irwin, Global Counsel’s chief economist and a former UK government official.

The criteria used to work out where to focus were the strength of economies, the height of trade barriers, and whether UK investment already flowed there.

How well British exporters already did was also taken into consideration. The reduction of trade barriers and the attempt to catch up with EU peers are the main challenges facing the UK in China.

Links with the US are already strong and worth intensifying according to the report. It is also worth trying to boost trade with Japan, South Korea, and European countries outside of the EU such as Russia and Turkey, said Global Counsel.

Meanwhile, investment banks with their European headquarters in London will start the process of moving jobs from the UK within weeks of the government triggering Brexit, a faster timeline than their public messages of patience would imply, according to sources on the plans being drawn up by four of the biggest firms.

Dismayed by the lack of a clear plan to protect the UK’s status as a global financial hub, executives are planning for the worst — that they will lose the right to sell services freely around the EU from the City, said the sources.

Facing a long process with potential waits for regulatory approvals before workers can pack their bags, banks want to start quickly to have new or expanded offices set up in Europe before the end of the two-year Brexit negotiation period.

“This year is all about understanding potential scenarios, your options, and what your contingency plans are,” said Andrew Gray, head of Brexit for UK financial services at PwC, which is advising banks on how best to respond to Brexit.

“Some plans will take time to execute, and firms can’t afford to wait until January1, 2019, and risk not being able to do business.”


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