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Brexit: Minister hails closer ties with Texas but no free trade deal with US or India

GOODS TRADE BETWEEN THE UK AND EU HAS BEEN HIT BY BREXIT AND THERE ARE NO SIGNS YET OF A FREE TRADE DEAL WITH AMERICA OR INDIA (PA Archive)
GOODS TRADE BETWEEN THE UK AND EU HAS BEEN HIT BY BREXIT AND THERE ARE NO SIGNS YET OF A FREE TRADE DEAL WITH AMERICA OR INDIA (PA Archive)

Ministers hailed closer ties with Texas but there was still no sign of much-trumpeted post-Brexit free trade deals between Britain and the US or India.

The UK is set to sign an agreement on closer trade co-operation with Texas as the Government continues to pursue state-level deals in the absence of a wider free trade agreement with America.

Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch and Texas Governor Greg Abbott are expected to formally sign the agreement in Westminster on Wednesday.

The agreement is not a trade deal, because individual US states do not have the power to sign these, but takes the form of a memorandum of understanding designed to improve co-operation between businesses in Britain and Texas and tackle regulatory barriers to trade.

Ms Badenoch said: “I’m delighted to welcome Governor Abbott to the UK for this landmark signing.”

The move follows similar steps with other US states but falls far short of the free trade deal with the US which leading Brexiteers promised the nation ahead of the 2016 referendum.

Rishi Sunak also held talks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Tuesday including on a free trade deal.

The British PM told India’s leader that he wanted an “ambitious” outcome to trade talks between the countries, as they agreed on the need for a comprehensive deal.

“They agreed on the importance of securing a historic and comprehensive deal that benefits both countries,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

“The Prime Minister (Sunak) reiterated the importance of reaching an ambitious outcome on goods and services, and they agreed to remain in close contact and look forward to further progress on trade talks.”

But the India trade deal, which also has been long anticipated, does not appear to be making decisive and swift progress.

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney, MP for Richmond Park, said: “This Conservative government’s cowboy trade policy is shooting the British public in the foot and making life even more difficult for small businesses.”

Just days ago, the Office for Budget Responsibility outlined the economic harm being done to the UK by Brexit.

Achieving a free trade agreement with America had been part of the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto, but progress towards a deal has stalled, with Ms Badenoch blaming a lack of interest on the part of Joe Biden’s administration.

Instead, the UK has pursued a series of state-level deals, including Indiana in May 2022 and most recently Florida in November last year.

Although these agreements do not lower tariffs as a free trade deal would, they can provide some help for businesses through recognising UK qualifications or addressing state-level regulatory issues.

Texas governor Mr Abbott said: “As our ninth largest trade partner, the United Kingdom plays a critical role in the Texas economic juggernaut.

“Strengthening the bond between Texas and the United Kingdom is crucial for our shared economies to prosper.

“By signing this Statement of Mutual Co-operation today, we will further promote economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic.

“Texas is the economic engine of America, where entrepreneurs from around the globe can cast a vision and know they can achieve it. Working with our British partners, we will chart a greater path towards success and opportunity and create an even more robust economic partnership.”