UK poised to strike trade deal with Japan

UK poised to strike trade deal with Japan

The UK is poised to strike its first post-Brexit trade deal after Britain and Japan made a breakthrough on agricultural access, according to negotiators.

Toshimitsu Motegi, the Japanese foreign minister, and UK trade minister Liz Truss will hold a teleconference on Friday morning London time to confirm their agreement in principle to a new free trade pact, they added.

The deal with Tokyo will come at a welcome time for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as his move to unpick parts of the Brexit withdrawal treaty risks the collapse of trade talks with Brussels.

Negotiators said they had reached a compromise on agricultural access to Japan, most notably for British cheese. But it is unclear whether the UK has won an export quota to match the one it had as a member of the EU.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting in Tokyo, Mr Motegi said he aimed to reach an agreement in principle on Friday with Ms Truss. One Japanese negotiator warned there were still some points outstanding for the ministers to settle.

The deal will largely replicate the existing EU-Japan free trade agreement, which will cease to apply to the UK when the Brexit transition period runs out at the end of this year.

It will ensure that both sides maintain the benefits of lower tariffs. They have also agreed to expanded rules on digital trade, such as a ban on demanding algorithms or source code from software applications sold by the other country.

One of the biggest sticking points was so-called tariff rate quotas in agriculture, which let European farmers export a limited amount of sensitive foodstuffs to Japan at a lower tariff. Tokyo argued that it was up to London to argue with Brussels for a share of the existing quota and it could not offer more.

The deal on agriculture may not become clear until a legal text is agreed and published, which is likely to take several weeks.