Behind the Headlines

“Brexit BEGINS: Liam Fox reveals FIRST new trade deal SECURED - huge boost to May.” Really?

Written on 01/25/2019

What’s the story?

It has been reported that Liam Fox has secured, in principle, a trade deal with Israel at the World Economic forum in Davos this week. As a member of the EU, the UK already benefits from a comprehensive trade agreement with Israel, worth 10 billion euros annually to the EU. Read more online at The Express


How reliable is it?

Potentially reliable but not impressive. Liam Fox is said to have secured a trade deal which is “broadly the same” as the UK's current trading relationship with Israel. But this simple prolongation of what we have now substitutes for just one of the 50 free trade agreements the UK currently has with third countries as a member of the EU.


What’s the background?

  • Liam Fox, the UK’s Secretary of State for International Trade, has been in Davos at the World Economic Forum, looking to discuss possible free trade deals with countries outside the EU. Evidence.
  • The International Trade Secretary is launching the UK’s “Free Trade is GREAT” branding, in an attempt to attract foreign investment and trade. Evidence.
  • It has been reported that Dr. Fox has secured a deal, in principle, with Israel to continue trading on “broadly the same” terms as the UK currently already has as a member of the EU. Evidence.
  • The deal would be a replacement to the current trade deal the EU already has with Israel if the UK leaves the EU. Evidence.
  • In 2016, UK exports to Israel accounted for 0.4% of all UK exports; imports from Israel accounted for 0.3% of all UK imports. Evidence.
  • This supposed “major boost” to Theresa May still leaves 99.6% of UK exports and imports still to be determined.Evidence.
  • The EU is Israel's largest market and its priority for trade deals, as it accounts for around a third of Israel's total trade. Evidence.
  • Through the EU, Britain is currently party to 50 Free Trade Agreements, with a further 67 either being negotiated or proposed. Evidence.
  • In December 2018, the EU finalised a Free Trade Agreement with Japan, creating the largest Free Trade area in the world, with removed trade barriers potentially boosting revenue by up to €1 billion annually for EU exporters. Evidence.
  • In 2017, UK exports to the EU amounted to £235 billion. This is twice the amount exported to the US and almost 30 times more than our exports to Australia. Evidence.
  • Liam Fox has been Secretary of State for International Trade since July 2016 and this would be the first trade deal that he has secured (in principle). Evidence.
  • During the referendum campaign, Dr. Fox claimed that completing a deal with the EU would “be the easiest in human history” Evidence.
  • He also declared that "We're going to replicate the 40 EU free trade agreements that exist before we leave the European Union so we've got no disruption of trade," and “we'll have up to 40 ready for one second after midnight in March 2019". Evidence.

Photo courtesy of Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament

This Behind the Headlines Briefing was first published on the DoorstepEU app: