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Britain has formally applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), with negotiations set to start later this year. Since leaving the EU, Britain has made clear its desire to join the trade bloc, which removes most tariffs between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement: “One year after our departure for the EU we are forging new partnerships that will bring enormous economic benefits for the people of Britain.”
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss believes membership of the partnership would boost trade that was worth £111billion last year and has been growing 8 percent per year since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016.
Ms Truss argued membership will “complement” existing free trade agreements between the UK and countries including Japan, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Vietnam, which were “rolled over” from previous EU deals.
Speaking to the BBC, Ms Truss declined to say what effect CPTPP membership would have on the UK economy but she insisted the Pacific region was important as a centre of “future growth”.
Brexiteers hailed the move as proving the future success of Global Britain is outside Europe.
North West Leicestershire MP Andrew Bridgen said: “We don’t need the EU any more.
“This just confirms the massive opportunities Brexit is already bringing to this country.”
In an interview with Express.co.uk, though, Alan Winters, director of the Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex, warned that Britain will have to accept the terms of its membership in CPTPP – without any saying in it.
He explained: “It is a done deal, and it can be a very straightforward done deal in the sense that the CPTPP is not going to negotiate.
“They are going to say ‘here we are, you can join, here is where you sign’.
“The British Government accepts that mostly… but is the UK going to ask for exceptions?
“Those sort of areas are not quite clear.
“It is quite difficult when you are new, because when you are seeking accession, you cannot change things.”
Mr Winters suggested the same thing happened when in the early Seventies, Britain wanted to join the European Economic Community (EEC) – the precursor to the EU – and ended up getting a “bummed deal”.
He added: “For example, the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) – they rushed it through a few months before the UK joined when they realised they were going to let the Brits in.
“That is why we got such a bummed deal on the quotas.
“Accession you are just on the defensive all the time.”
Former Prime Minister Edward Heath took Britain into the bloc in 1973.
Mr Heath would have anything to “get the UK in” the EEC – even if it meant failing to protect the rights of British fishermen.
In a 2000 report by the Daily Telegraph, Sir Con O’Neill, the diplomat who led British officials in the delegation to negotiate Britain’s membership of the EEC, wrote in a report that the government would have paid any price to join the bloc in the early Seventies.
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Sir Con’s report claims the principle that guided the negotiations leading to Britain’s accession to the EEC, which took place between 1970 and 1972, was “swallow the lot and swallow it now”, as the only thing that mattered was to get in.
One of the things Britain was ready to “swallow” included its fisheries, according to the report.
The diplomat acknowledged mistakes in the fishing talks, as he claimed his negotiating team “failed to foresee the way in which, and the intensity with which, political pressures on the question of fishing limits would develop”.
Mr Heath, then Prime Minister, dismissed the notion that he had betrayed British fishermen as “absurd and insulting”.
However, Sir Con’s account suggests that British negotiators could have stopped the adoption of a CFP if they had realised how important the issue was.
He wrote: “I have no doubt that we made mistakes.
“The first was in not trying harder than we did to stop the adoption of a common fisheries policy. I believe we could have at least postponed such an agreement; and if we had, it is possible, though questionable, that we could have postponed it indefinitely.
“Almost a year later, we made a major mistake in putting the proposals we put to them on June 1, 1971.
“Why was our handling of the issue of fisheries far more uncertain, and more faulty, than our handling of other issues?
“We did not at the outset realise how acute the question would become and, in part, our retreat from our opening position and the gradual stepping up of our demands was due simply to the mounting political pressure exercised upon us.”
The account only became public 19 years ago as, according to the Daily Telegraph, it was feared its release would cause controversy and might have offended the French and other governments.
Sir David Hannay, the former British ambassador to the UN who edited the account, told the publication: “This was considered to be a reasonably sensitive document and was treated as very restricted.”