UK and Japan agree free trade deal as EU talks hang in the balance

Liz Truss said the deal represents a 'historic moment' for the Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

The UK has secured a post-Brexit trade agreement with Japan which is set to boost trade by an estimated £15bn - amid the ongoing uncertainty of a trade deal with the EU.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said it is a “historic moment” for the two countries which will bring “new wins” for British businesses in the manufacturing, food and drink, and tech industries.

The UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement was agreed in principle by Ms Truss and Japan’s foreign minister in a video call on Friday morning.

So far, the UK has secured 20 other trade deals with countries or blocs, including Israel, Morocco, Chile and South Korea.

The Government said the latest deal brings benefits beyond the EU-Japan trade deal, giving UK companies exporting to Japan a competitive advantage.

Almost all exports to Japan (99%) will benefit from tariff-free trade.

Which other countries has the UK agreed trade deals with?

Country or bloc

  • Andean countries

  • CARIFORUM trade bloc

  • Central America

  • Chile

  • Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) trade bloc 

  • Faroe Islands

  • Georgia

  • Iceland and Norway

  • Israel

  • Jordan

  • Kosovo

  • Lebanon

  • Liechtenstein

  • Morocco

  • Pacific states

  • Palestinian Authority

  • South Korea

  • Southern Africa Customs Union and Mozambique (SACUM) trade bloc

  • Switzerland

  • Tunisia

Prime minister Boris Johnson heralded the deal, tweeting: "The UK has just signed a major Free Trade Agreement with Japan. "Congratulations to Liz Truss and all who took part in these negotiations. "We have taken back control of our trade policy & will continue to thrive as a trading nation outside the EU."

Ms Truss said: “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, as it secures new wins for British businesses in our great manufacturing, food and drink, and tech industries.

“From our automotive workers in Wales to our shoemakers in the North of England, this deal will help build back better as we create new opportunities for people throughout the whole of the UK and help level up our country.

“Strategically, the deal is an important step towards joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership and placing Britain at the centre of a network of modern free trade agreements with like-minded friends and allies.”

Maros Sefcovic said the Bill is a ‘serious violation’ of international law Credit: right

The deal comes at a time when the UK's trade talks with the EU hang in the balance following the proposed Internal Markets Bill, which threatens to go against international law.

At a stormy meeting in London on Thursday, the Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove insisted the Government “could not and would not” drop measures in legislation tabled earlier this week.

It prompted European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic to accuse the UK of an “extremely serious violation” of international law, putting the ongoing trade talks in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson is facing growing unrest among Tory MPs deeply unhappy at the threat to undermine Britain’s traditional support for the international rule of law.

In the Commons, senior Conservatives are tabling an amendment to the Bill which they said would limit the powers it gave to ministers in relation to the Withdrawal Agreement.

The row erupted as the latest round of trade talks – also taking place in London – ended on Thursday with both sides acknowledging that “significant differences” remain.