NEWS · 31 March 2023

Brexiters are claiming that the Asia-Pacific trade deal the government signed today, the CPTPP, makes rejoining the EU “impossible”.

This has got some rejoiners concerned. But don’t worry: it’s an absolute lie.

The first and most important thing to know is that the UK can pull out of CPTPP at any time – it just has to give six months’ notice.

It is no more of an obstacle to rejoining the EU than any of the other small trade deals the UK has signed since Brexit.

No big deal

Brexiters’ other argument is that the UK won’t want to leave the Pacific deal because the economic impact will be so brilliant.

But the economic boost from CPTPP is absolutely marginal – the government’s own statistics put it at 0.08% of GDP.

That compares to the 4% of GDP lost every year from leaving the EU single market (Office for Budget Responsibility figure).

CPTPP is a mini deal with just 11 small countries, most of which we had roll-over trade deals with already.

The UK is the first country to join the bloc since it was founded in 2018. There’s a reason for that: it’s just not a hot ticket, while the UK government is desperate to sign up to anything that will have us.

Wrong continent, wrong ocean

Geography buffs may have noticed a key-flaw in the UK joining an Asia-Pacific trade bloc – Britain is not in Asia, nor is it in the Pacific Ocean.

When it comes to international trade, this matters hugely. Closer trade partners inherently mean more trade – just think of the issues the UK has had in trying to transport perishable fruit and veg from further afield.

The EU is an unbeatable combination for the UK: it is the world’s largest trading bloc and it is right on our doorstep!

CPTPP is half a world away and in size terms is barely even an also-ran.

High costs for no gains

While we’re only gaining that tiny 0.08% of GDP, the government made a lot of compromises to sign up to the Pacific deal.

Trade unions are raising concerns about low standards of workers’ rights in many of the countries involved, including Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia.

The UK has also signed up to tariff-free imports of palm oil under the deal – the infamous oil that is fuelling deforestation and is the leading cause of orangutan extinction.

When the time comes, it won’t be difficult for the UK to leave this trashy trade deal where the costs far outweigh the tiny benefits.