Ministers are recruiting the “best” trade negotiators from across the Commonwealth to help train civil servants in securing trade deals ahead of Brexit.
Written by Ben Riley-Smith – The Telegraph
Officials from New Zealand, Australia and Canada have been targeted for secondments at the International Trade Department to help with preparations for talks.
Greg Hands, the UK Trade Minister, issued a public call inviting Commonwealth trade experts to spend time in Britain during a debate in the Commons this week.
There is a concern that the UK lacks the expertise for complex trade negotiations after 40 years of relying on Brussels to secure such deals.
A New Zealand official has already been seconded to train up Britain’s trade policy unit, while there is a hope more will follow.
Speaking in Parliament last week, Mr Hands referenced “the kind offers from New Zealand and other countries to help prepare our Department for negotiating free trade agreements”.
He added: “We took up New Zealand’s offer, and a senior official from New Zealand was seconded to the Department. I expect that we would look favourably on further such offers, including from Australia and Canada.”
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Government sources praised the ability of trade negotiators in Canada – who recently secured a deal with the European Union – as well in New Zealand.
“It is not just about doing Britain a kind turn. Some of these people will be some of the best in the world at this stuff,” the senior source said.
“We are basically very open to our Commonwealth or any other partners wanting to help us. We are genuinely pleased and impressed with the willingness of our traditional friends and allies with helping us to do something that Britain hasn’t done for 40 years. What the Prime Minister has been absolutely clear on is in ensuring that trade is at the heart of our Government.”
The news will be welcomed by Eurosceptics who argued during the EU referendum that Brexit could help the UK improve relations with the Commonwealth.
However it could produce an interesting dynamic when Britain does end up at the other side of the negotiating table with New Zealand, Canada and Australia in trade talks in the coming years.
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