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Britain’s post-Brexit trade policy risks leaving country without plan for ‘major economic change’

BRITAIN’S post-Brexit trade policy risks leaving the country without a plan for the major economic change that leaving the European Union is already starting to bring about, a report warned today.

Research by the Resolution Foundation and London School of Economics centre for economic performance found that the policy had been too focused on rushing through agreements at the expense of an underpinning economic strategy

The report suggests that EU withdrawal, combined with the impact of the pandemic, is set to cause “seismic shifts” in Britain’s economy over the coming decade, but they are being ignored in a debate too focused on the nuts and bolts of individual trade deals.

Opposition MPs have accused the Tory government of throwing away a historic opportunity to rethink the economy, while economists argue that the government is missing the big picture. 

Resolution Foundation principal economist Sophie Hale said: “Trade is about far more than tariffs and quotas. It can shape a country’s economic strengths and weaknesses, which in turn affect the kinds of jobs many people do up and down the country.”

Labour hit out at the Conservatives’ approach to Brexit, charging that the government has overseen a “five-year saga of failure.”

Shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry said: “The Tory government has thrown away a historic opportunity to reshape our trade policy to support British exports, jobs and growth, all in the hope of a few quick photo opportunities and signing ceremonies.”

A Department for International Trade spokesperson said that trade agreements have secured jobs and investment in every region and nation of the UK and the current strategy is attracting valuable investment to bring jobs and prosperity to the whole country. 

The warnings coincided with the government facing further criticism over the shambolic Northern Ireland Protocol, which has created barriers to goods being transferred across the Irish Sea. 

The problem has caused widespread disruption, with First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford saying that he was “frankly baffled” by the Tory government’s stance. 

He told Sky News: “It is their deal, yet so often we hear UK government ministers talk as though the deal was entirely somebody else’s responsibility.

“It’s a very important issue for Wales because our ports face the island of Ireland and trade through our ports is significantly down following Brexit.”

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