LONDON – The United Kingdom has struck its first post-Brexit trade deal after signing an agreement with Japan on Friday, the British government said.
The UK government said the deal will boost trade between the two countries by 15.2 billion pounds ($19.4 billion) more than the one the UK already had with Japan as a member of the European Union.
Liz Truss, the international trade secretary and Motegi Toshimitsu, Japan’s foreign minister, signed the deal via a video conference on Friday morning.
“This is a historic moment for the UK and Japan as our first major post-Brexit trade deal. The agreement we have negotiated – in record time and in challenging circumstances – goes far beyond the existing EU deal,” Truss said in a statement.
Although the fine print of the trade deal is not expected for several weeks, Truss said the deal “secures new wins for British businesses in our great manufacturing, food and drink, and tech industries” with agreements on rules of origin products such as cheese and beef and tariff-free quotas on 99 percent of British exports.
The statement said the deal would support Japanese companies like Nissan and Hitachi by keeping tariffs low.
The government claimed the deal would boost the UK economy by 1.5 billion pounds.
The announcement will be welcomed by the UK’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, who this week sparked a diplomatic spat with the EU after he published his internal market bill.
The bill proposes the safeguarding of tariff-free trade between all four nations in the UK, including between Northern Ireland – a UK territory that shares a border with EU member state the Republic of Ireland – and Great Britain.
It would also give UK ministers the power to unilaterally alter rules signed off by the UK and the EU in the withdrawal agreement.
The EU on Thursday urged Johnson to backtrack on proposed legislation, saying it would breach international law and jeopardize peace in Northern Ireland.
The issue could be avoided if the UK and the EU strike a future trade deal.
Johnson has set an arbitrary deadline for Brexit negotiations to conclude by Oct. 15 before the UK begins to prepare for a no-deal outcome.
Japanese auto giant Nissan over the summer warned that its plant in Sunderland, which employees 6,000 people in the northeast English city, would be unsustainable in the case of a no-deal Brexit, given the majority of exports from that factory go to the EU.