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Brexit: Department for International Trade gives update on withdrawal preparations
Reproduced by kind permission from Practical Law
The Department for International Trade, on 20 October 2018, updated the House of Commons International Trade Committee on progress made in preparations for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, including preparations for the establishment of separate UK goods and services schedules at the World Trade Organization (WTO), and for the UK’s accession to the WTO Government Procurement Agreement.
In a letter dated 20 October 2018, the Secretary of State for International Trade updated the Chair of the House of Commons International Trade Committee on progress made by the Department for International Trade (DIT) in its preparations for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
WTO members had until 24 October 2018 to assess the draft UK goods schedule submitted on 24 July 2018 to the World Trade Organization (WTO) members for certification. The DIT:
- Anticipates that a number of WTO members may have reservations about the handling of tariff rate quotas (TRQs), and will continue engaging with them to address any substantive concerns.
- Acknowledges that a move to formal negotiations under Article XXVIII of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade would provide a mechanism for completing the legal process. (Note: the government originally aimed to follow the technical “rectification” procedure and proceed
straight to certification. In contrast, a more substantive “modification” requires prior negotiation under Article XXVIII. The EU has already taken steps to start Article XXVIII negotiations on the modification of TRQs in the EU’s goods schedule.)
- Confirms that although the UK goods schedule would remain uncertified during that process, this will not affect trade, and the UK would continue to trade on the terms in the draft schedule.
The DIT has shared the draft UK services schedule informally with the WTO members, and is preparing a final version, retaining its rectification approach. The DIT:
- Intends to start the certification process for the services schedule towards the end of autumn 2018, which will include 45 days for WTO members to object.
- Confirms that the draft schedule would form the basis for UK trade pending resolution of any issues.
The UK’s market access offer for accession to the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) was circulated to GPA parties on 5 June 2018. The letter states that:
- The DIT has engaged with all GPA parties since then.
- At a meeting of the GPA Committee on 17 October 2018, parties agreed to return in November 2018 to discuss the UK’s accession with a view to
providing provisional acceptance should discussions end before the meeting.