Staffing at the UK Embassy in Dublin has doubled over the last two years as part of preparations for the UK’s exit from the European Union
Staffing at the British Embassy in Dublin has doubled over the last two years amid a flurry of Brexit-related trade and bilateral diplomatic activity sparked by preparations for the UK’s exit from the European Union.
The activity includes a visit this week by Kumar Iyer, chief economist at the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and a key player in overseeing economic and commercial analysis that feeds into British foreign policy.
He is understood to have met senior officials this week at the Department of Finance and the Central Bank, as well as business representatives, in what appears to be part of a diplomatic push to sell UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s drive to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU this year.
Earlier this week, Mr Johnson pitched two models for a future trade deal with the European Union – based on either the existing Canada/EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), or on the less close deal with Australia.
The British negotiating position has swung often wildly since mid-2016 under a succession of leaders, including Theresa May’s attempts to govern against the background of a deadlocked UK parliament.
But UK officials are stressing that the newly installed Conservative Party majority government is single-minded, and better-equipped to drive through its preferred positions.
Even the Canada model represents a relatively ‘hard’ Brexit compared with what was discussed ahead of the referendum in 2016, with no element of a customs union, for example.
CETA will scrap tariffs on almost all goods traded between the EU and Canada, but with limits for free trade in some sectors, including agriculture, which if replicated in an EU/UK deal would hit Ireland.
The free trade benefits of CETA are even more restricted in the services sector, with less access to each other’s markets, for example for banks and insurers.
CETA does not include any strong common rules around competition and state aid.
There is some mutual recognition of professional qualifications though. EU trade ties with Australia are even more limited. EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan has described the Australian model as “code for no deal”.
Meanwhile, the UK is separately seeking a free trade deal with Australia. The country is also seeking reduced tariffs from a trade deal with the US.
UK trade minister Liz Truss has launched a public consultation on developing a new ‘most favoured nation’ system to develop new trading relationships with countries outside the EU, including the US, in a push to secure new free trade agreements and access to markets.
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