UK signs first major post-Brexit trade deal with Japan

Liz Truss

Britain has secured its first major post-Brexit free trade deal with Japan worth an estimated £15bn.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said it was a "historic moment".

She said it would bring "new wins" for British businesses in manufacturing, food and drink, and tech industries.

"The agreement we have negotiated – in record time and in challenging circumstances – goes far beyond the existing EU deal, as it secures new wins for British businesses in our great manufacturing, food and drink, and tech industries,” she said.

Critics said while the deal may be of symbolic importance it would boost UK GDP by only 0.07%, a fraction of the trade that could be lost with the EU.

Friday's deal still needs approval by Japan's parliament, which the country's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi forecast would be passed by January.

The Department for International Trade added negotiators secured “more generous access” for malt producers, with Japan guaranteeing “market access for UK malt exports under an existing quota than the EU quota”.

Ms Truss said the UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement means 99% of exports to Japan will be tariff-free.

Truss said: “The government and business now need to work together to make the most from the deal. It’s huge opportunity to secure new Japanese investment across a wider range of sectors and UK regions.”

Major Japanese investors in the UK such as Nissan and Hitachi would benefit from reduced tariffs on parts coming from Japan and streamlined regulatory procedures, the UK's trade department statement said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Brexit gives Britain the freedom to strike trade deals with other countries around the world.

After an emergency meeting on Wednesday at Whitehall between EU officials and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said Boris Johnson had “seriously damaged trust” as he set a 20-day deadline for No 10 to drop the Internal Markets Bill or face legal action.

Meanwhile, Adam Marshall, the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, called the announcement a milestone, but said: "Whilst this agreement is undoubtedly cause for celebration, securing a Free Trade Agreement with the EU remains critical to the future of businesses in the UK.

"We urge ministers to redouble their efforts to reach a comprehensive partnership with our largest trading partner at a crucial time in the negotiations."