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Thursday 16

August, 2018 6:44 AM



UK looking to begin post-Brexit trade talks with China

UK looking to begin post-Brexit trade talks with China

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Monday that he is welcoming the news of China's invitation to begin trade talks and work toward securing a deal with the UK once it leaves the European Union.

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By Charles Bliss 30.07.2018

The UK’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Monday that he is welcoming the news of China’s invitation to begin trade talks and work toward securing a deal with the UK once it leaves the European Union.

Hunt, who assumed his role this month, met with counterpart Wang Yi and other high-level delegates in Beijing. He will also travel to Vienna and Paris on the way back to meet with his European partners to discuss current Brexit talks.

In a joint press conference, Hunt said that the UK and China are discussing the offer of talks to set up a new trade deal post-Brexit and that it is very much open to exploration.

The UK is pushing ahead with its desire to secure a number of trade agreements with different countries around the world as it prepares to leave the EU in early 2019. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox confirmed last week that discussions are underway to put talks on the table with the US, with a free-trade agreement on the agenda.

News also broke last week that Prime Minister Theresa May is looking to send her ministers to broker “back-door” agreements with all the EU member states as talks continue to stutter with EU negotiations chief Michael Barnier.

As May takes some time on holiday in Italy this week, ministers such as Hunt and Chancellor Philip Hammond have gone to France for talks on separate occasions, while May already found time to meet up with the heads of state from Austria, Portugal, Czechia and Estonia.

Any agreement with the EU must occur before an October deadline, as the UK is officially set to depart the EU by March 2019, although a transition agreement will cover the period up to the beginning of 2021. Both sides have threatened to walk away from talks if no deal is in place, with the UK confirming that it is already making plans for a no-deal Brexit in several key departments, including the sourcing of medical supplies and food.

Neither Hunt nor Wang chose to comment on the nature of talks between the UK and China other than terming them “very constructive”. The UK has been trying to foster a more positive relationship with China in the last few years, starting when David Cameron was still in charge. Following a thawing of any bad feelings between the two countries, they are about to take a step closer in a post-Brexit world. Hunt was due to meet Premier Li Keqiang later in the day.

May has sought to put a greater emphasis on moving Brexit talks forward in recent weeks, as a spate of resignations led the embattled Prime Minister to reshuffle her cabinet and take personal control of talks between her nation and European counterparts. The clock is ticking to get pen to paper on an agreement between the two sides.

New Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab insisted that he has no issue with May taking personal control, confirming that he was aware of this development when he took on his role. He clarified that it came down to nothing more than “shifting of the Whitehall deckchairs”.

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